Nicki Coertze was enjoying a safari while on vacation with his family in Shingwedsi, South Africa, when he witnessed something both rare and spectacular.
He saw a herd of African elephants, and tucked behind one of the adults, he spotted an albino elephant calf.
Albino animals are rare and hard to find, especially when you’re not looking for them. It’s believed that one in every 10,000 mammals are born albino. Many go unnoticed in the wild because they’re far and few between.
Coertze, a 58-year old photographer, snapped several pictures of the baby hanging out by the Shingwedsi river. The photos document a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Coertze and his family.
Even though they’re hard to find, albino animals stick out because of their differences. Their lack of skin pigmentation can make them susceptible to skin damage from the sun. They’re also at increased risk of becoming blind at some point during their lifetimes.
Albinism is especially rare in elephants because, unlike with humans where the condition occurs randomly, albinism is actually hereditary. For African elephants, it’s even more rare compared to their Asian counterparts.
While many albino animals benefit from the protection of their herds, some suffer based on the challenges they face as a result of being different from the rest of their kind. Some confront rejection by their families.
This particular calf is well protected because it lives within the safe walls of Kruger National Park where it will be free from poachers. And it’s apparently gained the acceptance of its community. Coertze’s photos show a happy elephant that fits in well with the other animals.
It drinks from the river and plays with the other elephants. It seems like it will have the opportunity to live a long and fulfilling life in spite of the challenges it will likely encounter.
Not all albino animals are as lucky as this calf seems to be, and that makes Coertze’s photos even more spectacular.
The calf’s pink skin looks beautiful in contrast to the rest of the herd. While it’s covered in mud, you can still see the stark difference between it and the other elephants.
“’I took some lovely shots of the pink elephant. Some of the shots show it framed by the legs of another elephant, you can really see the contrast in colour between the two as the calf shows off its unique pinkness beautifully,” Coertze said in an interview with the Daily Mail.
He went on to drive home just how unique his experience was.
“’I have been visiting Kruger since my early childhood, and have over the last many years being spending at least 20 to 30 days in Kruger every year… I have never seen an albino elephant before.”
Coertze’s pictures are definitely worth cherishing. He may never see the little calf again on future trips, but at least he’s documented what he saw so that he could share it with the rest of us!
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