Unique Albino Panda Spotted in China, Sans Eye Mask

The first sighting of the world's one and only albino panda since 2019 occurred earlier this year when it lumbered by a motion-sensitive field camera in the Chinese highlands.

Fortunately, the rare animal appears to be developing normally and happily at the Wolong National Nature Reserve in the Sichuan province, which is a protected area that is home to about 150 giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca).

But this is the only one whose color is known.

The well-known individual carries an uncommon genetic mutation that changes the species' typical black-and-white fur to a uniformly light cream tint.

It seems to be an albino creature. This indicates that it has a mutation that affects how skin, eye, and hair pigments are produced. However, there is a possibility that this genetic abnormality will potentially cause sickness or physical deformities.

There has been no indication of the five or six-year-old panda's health in the four years since field cameras first spotted him in China.

Despite being the outcast of the panda family, it seems to blend right in. The all-white panda was seen bonding with a mother panda and her roughly two-year-old youngster in February footage that was just shown by China's national television as they snuggled in a tree hollow.

Engineer Wei Rongping from the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Pandas told China Daily that towards the end of February, adult wild pandas in Wolong are in the estrus (mating) season, during which mother pandas with cubs can be highly violent when an adult panda approaches or invades.

"This female panda behaved differently than expected and was remarkably calm. She may be the mother of the all-white panda, for instance.

More than a dozen other contacts with the albino panda and other pandas in the area were captured by field cameras at the wildlife sanctuary.

There is also a video of the white panda playing with a black-and-white pal, according to the South China Morning Post.

Although the sex of the albino panda has not yet been established, experts note that it is already approaching adult size and displaying indicators of sexual maturity.

Researchers are aiming to get further footage of the creature and potentially collect some of its DNA in order to understand more about it.

Experts are uncertain as to whether or not the panda's genetic peculiarity will be passed on if it does wind up breeding with another of its type.