Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Cute, Pink and Oh, So Vulnerable

Pinky, the rare albino dolphin who has been spotted in Lake Calcasieu in Louisiana, USA. Photograph: Captain Erik Rue /Caters News Agency Ltd

Pinky, as the rare albino bottlenose dolphin has been named by the locals, has been making friends and influencing people who have visited the area since she/he was first spotted in Lake Calcasieu last year.

Local charter boat Captain Erik Rue has been studying the dolphin since it first surfaced in the Louisiana Lake, and inland saltwater estuary, north of the Gulf of Mexico in southwest Louisiana. When Rue originally saw Pinky, the calf was swimming with a pod of four other dolphins.

"I just happened to see a little pod of dolphins, and I noticed one that was a little lighter ... I had never seen anything like it. It's the same colour throughout the whole body," said Rue.

"The dolphin appears to be healthy and normal other than its coloration, which is quite beautiful and stunningly pink," Rue claims to have sighted Pinky about 40-50 times.

"As time has passed the young mammal has grown and sometimes ventures away from its mother to feed and play; but, always remains in the vicinity of the pod," he said.

Regina Asmutis-Silvia, a senior biologist with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, said: "I have never seen a dolphin coloured in this way in all my career."

"It is a truly beautiful dolphin; but, people should be careful, as with any dolphins, to respect it - observe from a distance, limit their time watching, don't chase or harass it."

"While this animal looks pink, it is an albino which you can notice in the pink eyes. Albinism is a genetic trait and it unclear as to the type of albinism this animal inherited."

While Pinky makes humans just want to dive right in to hug and squeeze him/her to death, albinism usually means an early death if you are prey not predator. For many prey species, the colour/colour patterns of their skin provide camouflage which can be up to 75% of their survival skill set.

Unfortunately, this loss of camouflage is a double-edged sword! Their inability to hide from predators also makes it impossible for them to conceal themselves from prey. Their meal knows they are coming before they even get there.

However, it is with a sad heart that I report that the largest predator of dolphins is still man.

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