‘Extremely rare and special’ pink Elephant Calf  found in South Africa

Next to another calf the difference is pretty stark.

Next to another calf the difference is pretty stark. Image Courtesy of Theo Potgieter

A safari operator in South Africa recently spotted a pink elephant calf playing in a waterhole — and no, he wasn’t watching Disney’s Dumbo.

The “extremely rare” African elephant was “bathing in the mighty Olifants river” in Kruger National Park, Theo Potgieter, a guide and safari operator, said in a Feb. 13 Facebook post.

Photos show the pink-skinned, light-eyed elephant playing with a gray elephant.

The elephant calf is likely around a year old, and has albinism, Potgieter told Live Science. Albinism is a genetic mutation that stops the production of melanin, which creates pigment in the eyes, hair and skin.

“These little gems are very vulnerable to the harsh & bright African sun. This little guy however have a whole family to take care of him, as they do with all their young,” Potgieter said in his post. “What an absolute (privilege) to have witnessed this family recently.”

Albinism impacts eye sight, too, according to Hoedspruit Elephant Rehabilitation and Development Trust (HERD), which cares for another albino elephant at another game reserve in South Africa.

The fact these two are playing by the river is a good sign for family bonding. Image courtesy of Theo Potgieter

“The pigment in eyes contributes to the function of many parts of the eyes, and therefore the lack of pigment in the eyes of albinos causes their eyes to develop abnormally,” HERD said in a blog post. “There is a lack of research on how exactly albinism affects eye development, and there is evidence that the degree of abnormal development differs between species. It is likely that most albinos struggle to focus and to perceive depth.”

While elephants can be rejected from their herd for being albino this little bull has family to play with. Image Courtesy of Theo Potgieter

Potgieter told Live Science only about 1 in 10,000 elephants are born with albinism, but he said he has previously seen another albino elephant calf at the park.

“In both recent sightings of two different individuals, the rest of the herd seemed to be very protective and patient with the presence of these young individuals,” Potgieter told the news outlet. “It is always a privilege to be able to witness these extremely rare and special animals.”

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