Like most green turtles, baby Alby faces a tough life and likely won’t survive into adulthood. But this rare little turtle has one more card stacked against him — he’s an albino.
The incredibly rare albino green turtle was found on Queensland, Australia’s Sunshine Coast on Sunday, CNN reported. Alby’s pink eyes and “snow white” coloring probably occurs at a rate of only one in many hundreds of thousands.
The albino baby turtle was found by a local environmental group called Coolum and North Shore Coast Care. Volunteers scouring the beach for hatchlings found the shells of Alby’s siblings first, a couple days after they had hatched, and then they discovered the tiny albino green turtle.
“It is a very rare find. It is the first time I’ve see one,” the group’s president, Leigh Warneminde, said.
The group was at Castaways Beach that day to survey a green turtle nest where eggs had been laid in November and to gather data for research. Alby’s siblings hatched on Friday, and on Sunday, volunteers counted empty shells to see how many of them had made it back into the ocean.
— CNN (@CNN) February 9, 2016
The final count was 122 hatchlings.
When they examined the nest itself, volunteers made a remarkable discovery — a tiny white hatchling, lying on its back, sitting on top of what they thought was an empty nest, ABC Australia reported. The albino turtle had been left behind.
Warneminde described tiny Alby as “pink-eyed” and “snow white.” He’s only five centimeters wide.
“It looked like a normal turtle hatchling, except that it had a white shell and it had little white flippers, and you could see a little bit of pink under its flippers. None of us had ever experienced or seen anything like that before, so we were all a little bit taken aback.”
Queensland’s Government’s Threatened Species Unit chief scientist, Dr. Col Limpus said that albino turtles are “extremely rare; it probably occurs at the rate of one in many hundreds of thousands of eggs that are laid.”
In 50 years of work with the creatures, Dr. Limpus hasn’t seen a single albino turtle with his own eyes, nor has he ever seen a record of one anywhere in the world.
And while that makes the turtle a precious rarity, it also doesn’t bode well for his survival. If albino turtles had a good survival rate, the argument goes, there would be more of them in the world.
Rare albino turtle spotted in Queensland, Australia. pic.twitter.com/PNhTr6HNXc
— ABC News (@ABC) February 9, 2016
The trouble is, the odds for a baby green turtle are already pretty bad. Only one in 1,000 babies will survive into adulthood, and with his strange coloring, Alby’s odds are much worse because he’ll be far more vulnerable than his siblings.
Dr. Limpus said his strange coloring makes him ill-suited to his environment because he has no camouflage to protect him from large sea predators.
“Normally they don’t survive coming out of the nest and when they do they’re abnormal and not well suited to the environment, which means the chance of survival is very slim.”
Alby and his siblings have a tough journey ahead of them, too. According to 9News, green turtles in this part of Australia travel to Chile, in South America. And now that the babies have hatched, they’ll head back across the Pacific — a very dangerous journey.
“They get in the great eastern current so they have a whole lot of threats that face them, not just predators but plastic debris, and fishing in Chile,” Warneminde said.
In a video of the baby albino green turtle shot by one of the volunteers lucky enough to see him in person, Alby seemed looked “quite vigorous” as he walked from the safety of his nest into the treacherous ocean.
Most hatchlings never even leave the nest. So, at the very least, Alby is off to a good start. Hopefully, he’s able to beat those tough odds.
[Photo Via Coolum District Coast Care Group Facebook]