Extremely rare albino alligator arrives at Illinois zoo

An extremely rare alligator is making his temporary home at an Illinois zoo.

Snowflake, a 7-foot, 16-year-old albino American alligator arrived at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago last week.

Snowflake, a 16-year-old albino American alligator, arrived at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago last week.

Snowflake, a 16-year-old albino American alligator, arrived at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago last week. (Kelly Tone/Chicago Zoological Society)

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Scientists estimate that Snowflake is one of only about 100 albino alligators in the world, according to a news release from the zoo.

With the recessive albinism gene from their parents, albino alligators are unable to create melanin to color their skin or eyes, which leaves them white with pinkish eyes.

According to the zoo, albino alligators don’t have good chances for survival in their natural habitat which includes swamps, marshes, rivers and lakes.

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The bright white skin of an albino alligator makes it easier for predators to spot them and more difficult for the rare gators to camouflage themselves. Their skin is also more sensitive to the sun — which alligators depend on to regulate their body temperature.

Scientists believe there are only about 100 albino alligators in the world. The extremely rare alligators have a hard time surviving in their natural habitat, in part, because their white skin makes them easier to spot by predators.  

Scientists believe there are only about 100 albino alligators in the world. The extremely rare alligators have a hard time surviving in their natural habitat, in part, because their white skin makes them easier to spot by predators.   (Kelly Tone/Chicago Zoological Society)

Albino alligators’ skin can burn quickly in the sun and so can their eyes, which makes it difficult for the gators to see their food and predators.

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Snowflake will be in the Brookfield Zoo’s “Swamp” habitat through September before he returns to his home in Florida at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park.