Rare albino penguin makes debut at zoo

Worldwide unique African Penguin in Gdansk, Poland - 22 Mar 2019

An extremely rare albino penguin has made its debut at Gdansk Zoo in northern Poland.

The penguin hatched in mid-December and has been under veterinary care. In the wild, such an unusual-looking penguin would be rejected by other penguins and would have little chance of survival.

But in Gdansk, it has its parents and two other friendly penguins to look out for it.

The bird's sex has not yet been determined. It weighs over half a kilogram (1.1 pounds) and stands 28 centimetres (11 inches) tall.

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Albino penguin
The world's only albino penguin raised in captivity has made its first public appearance, at Gdansk Zoo on Friday. The bird, whose gender is unknown and who has not so far been named, tentatively stepped out of its shelter, sticking close to other members of its flock. The zoo's penguin keeper Tomasz Fiolkowski said: "My colleague was checking to see if a chick had hatched, and it turned out to be a white chick. We all couldn't believe it, so we went to have a look and there really was a white chick. We were really astonished and were incredibly happy." However, zoo staff say that despite being a hit with keepers thanks to its unusual plumage, the penguin would stand out for all the wrong reasons in the wild. The bird would be the first to be attacked by predators and could be rejected by the rest of the flock. After hatching the bird was kept apart from the rest of the flock for its safety. Zoo director Michal Targowski said: "To put it bluntly, it's a misfit. The white colour really catches your eye. It would be the first to be attacked by predators. "Furthermore, all albinos are genetically more prone to diseases. The pigmentation which is responsible for the colour of a penguin's skin and feathers also serves as a protective barrier. "It's important to really keep an eye on it to protect it from possible mishaps. Also, there is a danger that the flock won't accept it. Right now it is being guarded by four adult birds – two older ones which are very calm in temperament, and its parents. This guarantees peace [in the flock]. "It spends its nights inside its stone den because that is where it was hatched and raised and it's where it feels safest." Albinism is a congenital disorder causing total or partial lack of pigment that results in white hair, feathers and fur and pink eyes in people and animals. The first albino penguin to be born in captivity is believed to have been a bird called Snowdrop, born in Bristol Zoo in 2002. Snowdrop died less than two years later, according to British media.
Zoo Welcomes Rare Albino Penguin
A juvenile albino penguin is presented to the public for the first time at the Gdansk Zoo in Gdansk, Poland, March 22, 2019. Agencja Gazeta/Michal Ryniak via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. POLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN POLAND. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A juvenile albino penguin is presented to the public for the first time at the Gdansk Zoo in Gdansk, Poland, March 22, 2019. Agencja Gazeta/Michal Ryniak via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. POLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN POLAND.
A juvenile albino penguin is presented to the public for the first time at the Gdansk Zoo in Gdansk, Poland, March 22, 2019. Agencja Gazeta/Michal Ryniak via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. POLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN POLAND.
In this image made from video, an albino penguin is seen along in its enclosure in Gdansk zoo, Gdansk, Poland, Friday, March 22, 2019. An extremely rare white penguin has made its public debut at the Gdansk zoo in northern Poland. The albino penguin hatched in mid-December and has been under veterinary care. In natural conditions such unusual-looking penguin would be rejected by other penguins and would have little chance of survival. (AP Photo)
In this image made from video, an albino penguin is seen along in its enclosure in Gdansk zoo, Gdansk, Poland, Friday, March 22, 2019. An extremely rare white penguin has made its public debut at the Gdansk zoo in northern Poland. The albino penguin hatched in mid-December and has been under veterinary care. In natural conditions such unusual-looking penguin would be rejected by other penguins and would have little chance of survival. (AP Photo)
ZOO, GDANSK, POMERANIA, POLAND - 2019/03/22: Penguins seen during the press conference at the zoo. In Gdansk Zoo appeared a new inhabitant. Worldwide unique African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) is an albinos and has amazing white feathering. This bird usually has black surface of the body with clear white brow and can be up to 63cm tall. The penguin was presented on a specially convened press conference at the Zoo. (Photo by Mateusz Slodkowski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A penguin seen during the press conference at the zoo. In Gdansk Zoo appeared a new inhabitant. Worldwide unique African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) is an albinos and has amazing white feathering. This bird usually has black surface of the body with clear white brow and can be up to 63cm tall. The penguin was presented on a specially convened press conference at the Zoo. (Photo by Mateusz Slodkowski / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A penguin seen during the press conference at the zoo. In Gdansk Zoo appeared a new inhabitant. Worldwide unique African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) is an albinos and has amazing white feathering. This bird usually has black surface of the body with clear white brow and can be up to 63cm tall. The penguin was presented on a specially convened press conference at the Zoo. (Photo by Mateusz Slodkowski / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Penguins seen during the press conference at the zoo. In Gdansk Zoo appeared a new inhabitant. Worldwide unique African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) is an albinos and has amazing white feathering. This bird usually has black surface of the body with clear white brow and can be up to 63cm tall. The penguin was presented on a specially convened press conference at the Zoo. (Photo by Mateusz Slodkowski / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
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Zoo director Michal Targowski said on Friday that the albino penguin "would have become the very first to be attacked by predators".

He said it requires special care, being prone to diseases since it lacks a protective black pigment. He said his team was astonished and "incredibly happy" to have a baby albino penguin.

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