It's not always black and white: Rare all-white panda caught on camera in China

A rare all-white panda was caught on camera at a nature reserve in south-west China, proving that albinism exists among wild pandas in the region. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
A rare all-white panda was caught on camera at a nature reserve in south-west China, proving that albinism exists among wild pandas in the region. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIJING • A rare all-white panda has been caught on camera at a nature reserve in south-west China, showing albinism exists among wild pandas in the region, state media reported.

The spotless, red-eyed animal was photographed while trekking through the forest last month in south-western Sichuan province, official news agency Xinhua said on Saturday.

The panda is an albino between one and two years old, said Mr Li Sheng, a researcher specialising in bears at Peking University, who was quoted in Xinhua's report.

The Wolong National Nature Reserve - where the animal was spotted - told Agence France-Presse it had no further details about the albino panda.

More than 80 per cent of the world's wild pandas live in Sichuan, with the rest in Shaanxi and Gansu province.

As of November, there were 548 giant pandas in global captivity, reported Xinhua.

The number living in the wild has dwindled to fewer than 2,000, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Famed for its "panda diplomacy", in which China dispatches the rare animals to other countries as a symbol of close relations, Beijing has invested in different programmes to protect its furry ambassadors in recent years.

Last year, China announced plans to create a bastion for giant pandas three times the size of Yellowstone National Park to link up existing wild populations and encourage breeding of the notoriously slow-reproducing animal.

At least 10 billion yuan (S$2 billion) had been budgeted for the Giant Panda National Park in mountainous south-western China, the state-run China Daily reported.

Pandas are currently listed as a vulnerable species, which means that while their survival is still threatened, conservation efforts have helped reduce their danger of extinction.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2019, with the headline 'It's not always black and white'. Print Edition | Subscribe