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Rare White Gator goes home to New Orleans

Since last November, thousands have flocked to the Aquarium to see the stunning white-skinned, blue-eyed gator, one of only 20 ever known to exist in the entire world. On loan from the Audubon Institute of New Orleans, the white gator has been a special guest star at the Aquarium,"wowing" folks from the on set of their visit in the Wetlands Gallery.Monday, April 12 was his last day on exhibit at the Aquarium as he now returns to his permanent home at Audubon.

Aquarium biologists are preparing the exhibit area for the return of the baby gator presentation. By 9:30 AM, April 15, approximately fifty juvenile American alligators will be on display where the white gator has resided for the last five months.

White alligator
[Photo: Audubon Park]
The white gator has a very rare, genetic mutation called “leucism.” This mysterious condition is an unusual combination of two recessive genes producing a white color. It is not albinism, and is much more rare and much less understood; the probability of inheriting leucism is projected at one in ten thousand. Leucistic animals have pigmented eyes, usually a blue-ish color. Albinos completely lack pigment and are noted by their pink eyes. Because very little is known about leucism in comparison to albinism, it is of much more interest to geneticists.

In 1987, a total of 19 white male hatchlings were found by a Cajun fisherman on lands owned by the Louisiana Land and Exploration Company, who donated four to Audubon. Although leucism exists in other animal species, no leucistic alligators were known until this discovery. A second sighting was made in 1994, when Audubon encountered a wild-born, leucistic female gator 100 miles from the site of the 19 hatchlings.

By meeting specific requirements and standards, The Florida Aquarium was qualified to obtain the gator, joining a dozen or so zoos and aquariums worldwide in the unique opportunity to display these wonders of nature. The white alligator resided at the Aquarium for five months before returning to the Louisiana Swamp Exhibit at Audubon.

Back to The Florida Aquarium

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