Rare albino American alligator to reside at Brookfield Zoo this summer

BROOKFIELD, Ill. (WLS) -- Guests visiting Brookfield Zoo this summer will have the unique opportunity to see a 16-year-old albino American alligator.

Measuring 7 ft. long, Snowflake will live at The Swamp habitat through September before heading back south to Florida's St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, a facility accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Albino alligators are extremely rare. Biologists estimate there are only about 100 existing in the world.

They are the offspring of parents that carry the recessive gene for albinism, meaning they do not have the ability to create melanin to color their skin or eyes.

With their ivory-white skin and pinkish eyes, albino alligators would not survive very long in their native habitat of swamps, marshes, rivers, and lakes in the southeastern United States.

Predators would easily find the young alligators because they are not able to camouflage amid their surroundings.

Additionally, alligators bask in the sun to regulate their body temperature. However, an albino's skin is very sensitive and can quickly burn. The sun also burns their eyes, making it harder for the albino alligators to see food and predators.

Historically, the American alligator population was severely impacted by hunting and habitat loss. The species was listed as endangered in 1967 under a law that preceded the Endangered Species Act of 1973. With collaboration between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and agencies in the southern United States, the population recovered and the alligator was removed from the Endangered Species List in 1987.
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