She has white skin and red eyes: the baby born in May is the first albino Galapagos giant tortoise ever observed in captivity or in the wild, according to the owner of the Swiss zoo where the happy event took place. Visitors to the Tropiquarium of Servion, a Swiss town located a few kilometers from Lausanne, were able to admire it for the first time on Friday. “We are blessed by the gods”rejoices the owner of the park, Philippe Morel, observing the small group of schoolchildren massed in front of the glass of the terrarium where this specimen is housed “of incredible zoological interest”.
One month old and weighing about fifty grams, it fits for the moment in the palm of a hand. The Galápagos giant tortoises (Chelonodis nigra), whose life expectancy can reach two centuries, are a species classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which estimates that there are 23,000 of them. individuals living in the archipelago. Albinism, a genetic disease characterized by the absence of pigmentation of the skin and bright red eyes and which can be accompanied by loss of sight and hearing in animals, had never been observed in this species whose skin and carapace are normally black, both in captivity and in the wild.
The park owner estimates that in the wild the lifespan of an albino turtle, whose white skin would attract predators, would probably be limited to a few weeks, but he is hopeful that at home his little protege, whose sex is still unknown, growing normally. “It’s crazy how much she climbs!”, exclaims the owner of the park. “She is even more active than the other”completes his son Thomas Morel, animal manager of the park, showing the other newborn of this litter, who is completely black.
This birth is exceptional in more ways than one: because of their size, these turtles, which can weigh up to 200 kilos once adults, have difficulty in reproducing, with a success rate of around 2 % for couplings. A characteristic that reinforces the importance of conservation efforts, even if for the time being, only three zoos in the world, including two in Switzerland, have managed to obtain a birth in these particular animals.