Germans are known for their love of baby zoo animals -- the late, great polar bear Knut in particular. But their most recent cuddly crush could test his enduring popularity. The surprising birth of a snow-white albino kangaroo at the Duisburg Zoo is captivating a growing wave of visitors.
"She's a hit," zoo biologist Volker Grün told SPIEGEL ONLINE.
Swarms of people have begun gathering around the kangaroo enclosure at the Ruhr region zoo to catch a glimpse of "Nala" since she recently emerged from her mother's pouch, he says. Grün says that visitor numbers appear to be up significantly.
Zookeepers didn't realize that the kangaroo joey was an albino until she poked her head out of her mother's pouch in May. "It was during morning rounds when all of the sudden this white head popped up, and we had to rub our eyes and look again," he says.
'Doesn't Understand that She Stands Out'
Nala entered her mother's pouch as a gummy bear-sized neonate in January. But only in recent weeks has the zoo's first albino kangaroo ventured outside to explore her enclosure with her dark brown cohorts, much to the delight of visitors.
Had she been born in her natural habitat of Australia, Nala would likely have already become a meal for some other animal. "In the wild, albino animals generally don't make it," says Grün. "They're too easy for predators to find."
Albinism, characterized by a lack of the pigment melanin, occurs at a rate of about 1:20,000 in humans. Though this rate is likely comparable in other animals, their low survival rate makes it difficult to measure, says Grün.
The only danger Nala faces in the zoo, however, is sun damage to her pink nose and eyes. But with plenty of shady trees in her enclosure, even that is unlikely, he says.
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