Pink Hippo Spotted in Kenya

The young Kenyan hippopotamus has leucism, a condition in which the skin produces less pigment than usual.

A young, rosy-hued hippopotamus (pictured) was spotted in September along the banks of Kenya's Mara River—and the discovery has two photographers tickled, well, pink.

"Just as we started to tuck into our breakfast, we looked up and gawked, open-mouthed, as a pink hippopotamus emerged from the river!" English brothers Will and Matt Burrard-Lucas wrote on their blog.

The brothers were in the Masai Mara National Reserve to photograph the annual wildebeest migration when they spotted the rare youngster.

The odd-looking animal has a condition called leucism, which occurs when the skin produces less pigment than usual, according to Joshua Charlton, assistant curator of mammals at the Bronx Zoo in New York City.

"It never ceases to amaze me how often nature reveals something unexpected," Will Burrard-Lucas wrote on the blog.

The pink hippo is not considered albino, because its mottled skin still has some pigment (pictured, the hippo in September), the Bronx Zoo's Charlton said by email.

Though most leucistic animals are otherwise normal, they tend to be at an evolutionary disadvantage, Charlton noted.

"In many species this [disadvantage] is due to a lack of camouflage, but in the hippo's case, the lack of pigmentation can be problematic when it comes to protection from the sun," he said.

Sunburn or no sunburn, the photographers wrote, "we hope that it goes on to live a full and happy hippo life, and that visitors to the Masai Mara can continue to marvel at its fetching pink rump for many years to come!"

The pale hippo was "very shy," sticking close to its mother and staying ashore for only a few minutes before returning to the river, the brothers reported.

The Burrard-Lucases used a long, 600-millimeter lens to snap pictures of the unusual creature from a distance. On their return to the United Kingdom, the photographers say, they researched leucistic hippos and discovered there have only been a few recorded instances, mainly in Uganda.

After the photographers had snapped the pictures of the pink hippo (pictured), their guide told them he'd heard rumours of the pale creature but that he'd never seen it himself.

"We were obviously very fortunate to have stumbled upon it by chance," they wrote.

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