The White Ones

Albino animals have always been sure to make be more interesting to people. White tigers, pet rats and snakes are some of the most common known animals to have albinism. The word “albino” comes from the Latin word “albus” meaning “white”. It is an inborn disorder that has white skin and / or hair as the most well known feature. Marine mammals with albinism are rare and not often sighted. The ones that are spotted often become famous among scientist and whale and dolphin lovers. One the most well known albino whales is Migaloo, a white humpback whale that swims in the waters of Australia. The animal was first spotted in 1991 and received the name “Migaloo” from the aboriginal language which means “white fella”. In 2011 a second white humpback was seen cruising the coast of Australia. This time it was a young calf and it is believed to be the child of Migaloo.

There are also albino dolphins and other then the whales they have a pink color instead of white. In 2007 one was spotted in Calcasieu Lake, Louisiana. The young calf was found swimming next to its regular colored mother. The dolphin was named “Pinky” after his body color. In January, 2014 a young albino bottlenose dolphin was captured during the brutal yearly dolphin hunts in Taiji, Japan. Each year a group of these hunters take to the waters of Taiji to round up hundreds of dolphins between September and April. They drive the animals into a cove and slaughter most of them in an inhumane way. The water from the cove often turns red from all the blood of the dolphins killed there. Other dolphins are sold to marine parks all over the world. The albino dolphin captured in January was put in the Taiji whale museum.

Every now and then a white orca will show up somewhere in the world and this leads to great interest from both scientist as well as marine parks. A white killer whale is a rare sighting and not many have been recorded yet. Although they are mostly white they are not seen as albinos. Usually they have grey areas on their body and lack the red eyes which are typical for albinism.

In March 1970, Sealand of the Pacific in Canada was looking to get a mate for their killer whale named “Haida”. They took to the waters of Pedder Bay, Vancouver Island and rounded up six orcas. One was a female known as T4 and it would set Sealand on the map instantly. T4 became known as “Chimo”. She suffered from Chediak-Higashi syndrome which made here partially white. This made her the most exiting captured orca of the time as no park in the world had ever held a “white” killer whale before.

Years before the capture of Chimo, in the early sixties, another white female was spotted and named “Alice”. It is believed that Alice did not survive up to reaching a mature age. She was only seen for a couple of years before disappearing.

Due to her syndrome Chimo was sensitive to illnesses. After spending two years in captivity she died in October 1972 to pneumonia leaving Haida behind alone for several years. Later it was found that Chimo had been a transient killer whale who belonged to the T2 pod. Alice, the white killer whale that was spotted before Chimo was captured, is also believed to come from this pod.

In 2010, off the coast of Russia a male white orca was filmed while swimming with its pod. With his dorsal fin raising out high above the water it was soon named “Iceberg”. He is an adult male, around 16 years of age, that seems to be healthy. It therefor is believed that he does not suffer from the same syndrome Chimo had as these animals usually don’t reach maturity.

Recently another white colored orca was spotted in Russian waters. This time a small juvenile was seen by researchers of the “Far East Russia Orca Project” were out to identify killer whales While taking pictures of the orcas they seeing the fog thickened and soon they could barely see further than a hundred meters. All of a sudden they were approached by a pod of orcas and right next to their boat the young white killer whale appeared. The orca swam off into the fog and could not be spotted afterwards.