When local villagers in Equatorial Guinea captured Snowflake in the 1960s, there was something weird and unique about the baby gorilla. Born in the wild, the male gorilla had a coat of pure white instead of the thick brown fur of most gorillas.
A western lowland gorilla, he ended up at the Barcelona Zoo in Barcelona, Spain, where he became a star and was loved by many until his death from skin cancer in 2003. He was given the Spanish name Copito de Nieve and the English name Snowflake. While at the zoo, he was even featured on the Basement Jaxx album Rooty in 2001.
But his albinism gave him poor eyesight due to a lack of pigment in his eyes, thus, a PBS documentary says he often frowned to protect his eyes from bright light. Due to his poor eyesight, Snowflake probably would never have reproduced in the wild, but he fathered 21 gorillas at the Barcelona Zoo, according to the documentary. The rare white gorilla also had 10 grandchildren and none of his offspring are albino.
Since his death, scientists have been studying his frozen blood and using it to sequence his genome. A 2013 study of his genome found that his albinism was likely caused by inbreeding – an uncle-niece pairing. Both of Snowflake’s parents carried the same mutant form of a gene that caused his albinism, writes LiveScience.
Here are more photos of the only known albino gorilla in the world:
Photos: Photographic archive of the Barcelona Zoo/Getty