19 Feb 2020
It is unusual to see a white springbok in the wild. It is even more unusual to see an adult leucistic animal because they cannot blend into the environment as the normal coloured ones. This makes them easier prey and there are a number of different predators in the Etosha National Park. Tour guide Ian Brown from Namibia2go spotted the leucistic springbok ewe with her normal coloured youngster near Sprokieswoud (Fairy tale forest; Moringa forest) west of Okaukuejo.
Leucism should not be confused with albinism. Leucistic animals do not have red eyes as this springbok ewe. Leucism is a harmless genetic disorder that causes the coat or feathers to be white and the skin beneath to be pink. Leucistic skin does not contain melanocytes, i.e. pigment producing cells. In albinism, by contrast, these cells are present but unable to produce the pigment melanin which occurs in animals and humans. It makes hair, skin and eyes appear darker. As for leucism, the lack of pigmentation may show on the whole body of an animal or only in certain places, where isolated feathers or spots on the coat are white, while the rest of the body has the usual colour. The most famous leucistic African animals were the white lions of Timbavati in South Africa.
The opposite melanistic – black – animals are more common, like black panthers which are black jaguars. In Etosha are a few semi-melanistic Burchell´s Zebras. The photo of the white springbok was taken by one of Ian Browns clients Lauréne Phillippot.
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