In people, we see a congenital disorder called albinism. This complete lack of a melanin – a dark brown to black pigment which occurs in the skin or in animals’ feathers, scales or cuticle, hair, and iris of the eye – makes up for a group of inherited disorders varying in intensity and effects on both people and animals alike.
This deficiency of melanin in the skin, hair, or fur and eyes of both people and animals affected by albinism makes for very light or powder white skin or fur and hair, and pale blue or even reddish to pink eyes. Poor vision is also a side-effect of albinism.
There is also something called leucism. Leucism, like albinism, is a genetic deviation which causes pale to powder white, or sometimes patchy skin, hair, feathers, scales or cuticle. Leucism does not affect the eyes, however.
While similar, both albinism and leucism are not one in the same. Remember, albinism is the absence of the dark brown to black pigment, aka melanin – whereas leucism is the partial loss of a variety of different pigments in the skin, hair, feathers, scales or cuticle.
Leucistic Animals Will Often Still Have Faint Markings
Whereas albino animals will be completely white, often with reddish eyes, the eyes of leucistic animals will match those of animals with zero pigment deficiencies.
Here, you will notice that amidst the pale color of the usually highly contrasting stripes lie this zebra’s faint, tan stripes.
There are so many intriguing examples of both leucistic and albino animals in nature. While they are all pretty cool, it is hardly a common sight to see an animal in the wild with either of these pigment deficiencies.
That explains why when Kenyan locals spotted this eye-catching mother and her calf – both leucistic – they stopped in their tracks to photograph the rare sight.