Two brothers, Will and Matt Burrard-Lucas, reported on their blog they were traveling through the Masai Mara wild animal preserve and were surprised to spy a pink hippo on the banks of the Mara River.
The brothers kept a respectful distance from the extremely rare hippo, using a 600mm telephoto lens to photograph it. The animal was only out of the water for several minutes, before it returned to the river. In the water, the pink hippo was observed submerging and surfacing for air, but was not visible very long.
They showed a keen concern for the animal’s well-being on their blog, “Being an animal that is so strikingly different often results in a hard life; these creatures frequently become outcasts, rejected by their conventionally colored peers. In this case however, we were relieved to note that the other hippos seemed to be treating the pink hippo just like any other.”
After returning to the UK, Will and Matt began researching the very rare individual and found none had been reported in the Mara River area. The only reports they found were of sightings in Uganda, and those apparently are very small in number.
Research conducted by the brothers lead them to believe the hippo is leucistic and not albino, because it has dark eyes (not pink or red) and pigmentation on its back. Leucism is a reduction of all types of pigmentation, not just of melanin. However, leucistic animals are generally white in color. So a pink leucistic hippo would be even more rare. Wildlife Extra News has a whole page with animal images and text on leucism, with some references to albinism. With some animals it isn’t clear exactly which genetic condition causes white or pink hair, skin or eye color.
The Burrard-Lucas brothers did a very good job both photographing and writing about the pink hippo. On their blog, they said they will be releasing more photos. While reading about such a rare animal and observing the photos is very enjoyable, one also wonders if so much media exposure doesn’t encourage many other tourists to seek out the pink hippo, and unintentionally cause it stress or even accidental harm, such as feeding it human food which might make it sick, or getting too close and driving it away from its natural habitat.
Image Credit: Burrard-Lucas