Endangered species of whale, nicknamed Migaloo, is so extremely rare that the chances of seeing this adult albino humpback whale are as few as one in 20,000. That means if 20,000 whales were spotted on any day, one of them might be Migaloo. Whale watchers in Sydney, Australia were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of this school-bus-sized mammal as it showcased itself near Australia’s eastern coast yesterday. The pale whale was spotted migrating north, and followed by three other whales who were also on their yearly migration journeys starting in Antarctic Ocean and spanning to the Great Barrier Reef, where they will settle in for mating season.
Albino animals of any kind are extremely rare, so when the albino animal happens to be an endangered species, the encounter becomes very special. Albinism is an inherited genetic trait that can happen in any species, but the recessive characteristic must be passed on genetically from parent to offspring. The chances of being born a true albino vary among species, but these odds are about the same as the chances of seeing Migaloo: one in 20,000. Albinism in humans and animals is caused by the animal’s inability to produce melanin, a pigment that causes dark coloration in hair, skin, eyes, feathers or scales. Animals with albinism usually have pink eyes and nails because lack of melanin pigment allows blood vessels to show through pale body parts. Albino animals are often popular food choices for predators because they lack the coloration that allows them to blend in with their habitats.
Not only are humpback whales on the endangered species list, Migaloo, which is Aboriginal for white fellow, is the only documented albino humpback whale in the world. The odds of seeing Migaloo are estimated to be one in 20,000 because since it was first discovered in 1991, the extraordinarily rare breed of whale has only been seen a total of four times in the past 18 years near the coast of New South Whales. People love this rare whale so much that he even has his own Facebook and Twitter accounts! On its social media pages, fans of Migaloo share photos, sightings and fun facts about the giant mammal. Snap a photo quickly, though, because male adult humpback whales can travel up to 160 kilometers per hour. When Migaloo made its first appearance 23 years ago, experts believed he was no more that five years old. The stunningly unique, albino humpback is now part of the 20-somethings generation of whales. The whale is estimated to be about 28 years old now. It is documented that humpback whales can live to be as old as 90, so fans of the albino humpback will enjoy its celebrity whale sightings for many years to come.
The Australian government wants to ensure that fans of the endangered species of whale will continue to have their one in 20,000 chance of seeing it. Environmental protection officials have enacted strict laws ordering people and ships to stay at least 500 meters away from the huge, endangered species of mammal. With these protective laws in place, it is hopeful that Migaloo will continue to parade up the coast of New South Wales, Australia for several future decades.
By Sarah Gallagher