A rare albino koala has been born at the San Diego Zoo, only the second albino koala known in captivity.
Zoo spokeswoman Georgeanne Irvine said the baby koala is pure white and has pink eyes. Normal koala babies have silver-gray fur. The baby is still emerging from its mother’s pouch and won’t be on public display for a year, she said.
The only other albino koala known to be in captivity is at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane, Australia.
Albinism is the hereditary absence of pigment from the skin, hair and eyes that occasionally occurs in mammals.
The koala currently is the size of a small kitten and is said to be healthy. It is expected to remain in its mother’s pouch for another month.
Koalas are marsupials native to Australia. They mature slowly and spend their first months with their mothers.
Dozens of koalas have been born at the zoo. About 20 koalas currently live at the zoo, which was the first to successfully bring the animal to the United States and the first to have a successful breeding program.
The albino koala was born to Matilda, one of six koalas given to the zoo by the Australian government in 1976 to commemorate America’s bicentennial. The infant is believed to have been sired by Matilda’s son, Pooya, and its albinism may be a result of inbreeding, Irvine said. She said zoo officials aren’t sure why Pooya was allowed to mate with Matilda or whether the mating was accidental.