If you need a bit of a Monday morning pick-me-up (because don’t we all), let me tell you you’ve clicked on the right article.
That’s because an all-white, albino giant panda has been photographed for the first time – and yes, it’s as adorable as you thought it would be.
The picture of the photogenic panda, which is believed to be the first of its kind, was released by scientists at Wolong National Nature Reserve in Sichuan, China on Sunday.
The picture was taken in mid-April with the reserve’s motion activated cameras, and shows the panda cub walking through greenery. The panda is believed to be between the age of one and two years old, according to an official statement released by the local conservation authority.
As per the statement, the discovery of the panda cub indicates ‘there is a ‘whitening’ mutant gene in the giant panda population in Wolong’.
From the photo alone, it can be assumed the panda is albino because of its white hair, white claws, and red eyes.
In mammals, albinism occurs when an individual inherits one or more mutated genes from both parents that interfere with the body’s production of melanin – the main pigment that determines the colour of skin, fur, and eyes, the National Geographic reports.
Animals with albinism are often at greater risk from predators in the wild because they can be spotted more easily and have poorer eyesight.
However, albinism does not affect the body structure or physiological functions of the animal, and usually has no significant effect on animal activity and reproduction, with the nature reserve confirming the panda is ‘physically strong’ and has a ‘steady gait’. As such, the mutation may not affect the normal life of the panda.
Should the cub reach maturity and mate with another wild panda in a few years it’s possible the albino gene will pass on to other generations – although the nature reserve note this will need to be observed through continuous field monitoring in the protected area.
The camera which snapped the animal was set up in December last year, with the nature reserve planning to set up more cameras in the hope of capturing the panda cub’s growth and development. Researchers also hope to track its activity and its community relationship.
Although experts knew that albinism did exist in pandas, a completely white panda had never before been caught on camera.