The world’s first albino ocelot, a wild cat species, has raised concerns among scientists involved in its conservation, who believe that her discovery in a rural area is a symptom of the deforestation of natural habitat. While she lives in the Medellin Conservation Park, it was found in Colombia and was brought to the park about a year ago.
When she was first found, the animal, according to EL PAÃS, was referred to as the albino feline due to its small size and resemblance to cats. However, a series of studies in the laboratories of the University of Antioquia and the National Police later confirmed her to be an albino ocelot and she was identified as leopardus pardalis.
Albino ocelot, according to the Centre for Biological Diversity, is a medium-sized, spotted cat that grows to about three feet long and weighs around 10-15 kilograms. The animal dwells in tropical and subtropical rainforests to semi-arid, dense thorn scrubs. The albino ocelot was suffering from several ailments when it was found and had to undergo several treatments over the past year to recover.
While the animal is blind, it does not affect her daily activity as she spends her days hunting dummy prey and climbing logs.
Scientists are now worried about its future and speculate that it will not be able to survive in its natural environment. AFP reported that the loss of forests due to human activity is threatening their population. Columbia lost 1700 square kilometers of forests in 2021 to cattle ranching, land grabbing, forest fires, and illegal crop cultivation.
The albino ocelot is suffering from a rare genetic disease known as albinism which is characterised by white colour due to the absence of melamine, and blood clogging in the iris, making her eyes red. “Albinism in animals is a genetic mutation that is not normally manifested, but when there is a high degree of relatedness it causes this non-dominant genetic condition to finally manifest,” Jorge Aubad, Director & Biologist at the conservation par told AFP.
He added that it is an issue that is occurring in the ecosystem itself. “This species has no chance of survival in its natural environment. Her albinism condition means because of her color, hunting is hard and she can be easily preyed upon. In addition to this, she has other medical conditions, such as blindness,” Abud added.
The cub was found by villagers in a rural area, but has adapted well to her new environment in the conservation park and uses her senses other than sight to locate resources, food, and shelter, and get her bearings.