The World’s Only Known Albino Orangutan Is Moving to Her Own Personal Island for Safe Keeping

Alba, the world’s only known albino orangutan, now has her own personal island sanctuary in Borneo to live out the rest of her days safely tucked away from the humans who may want to do her harm. Orangutans are endangered creatures, but Alba’s rare genetic disorder makes her truly a one-of-a-kind ape.

Alba, named after the Latin word for “white,” has albinism, a rare genetic condition that exists in many species and causes serious deficits in melanin, a pigment that gives hair, skin and eyes their colors. According to the National Institutes of Health, the condition is caused by a genetic mutation that affects the production of melanin, either slowing it down or stopping it completely. There is no cure for albinism, and although the condition is not lethal it can produce certain side effects which may make Alba especially vulnerable in the wild. For example, melanin is also important in eye development, so nearly every human and ape with albinism will have some eyesight problem. The lack of melanin in the skin also puts Alba at heightened risk for skin cancer.

01_18_alab1 Alba is the only known albino orangutan in the world. Photo Courtesy of Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation

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Today, the white orangutan lives in captivity, but soon she will be moved to a man-made island so that she can live her life outside of captivity, but still safe from humans who may endanger her welfare. Though orangutans are one of the most solitary of all apes, Alba will not be alone in her new home. She’ll be accompanied by three other peers, Radmala and Kika—two females—and a 4-year-old male named Unyu. The young orangutan has already been introduced to her future companions and seems to have bonded well, The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation reported. The enclosure where the apes will live is about 25 acres and is surrounded by a canal which will act as a barrier between the orangutans and the outside world.

01_18_alba2 The man-made enclosure where Alba will live is about 25 acres. Photo Courtesy of Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation

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Orangutans are only found in Sumatra and Borneo. These apes are known for their distinctive long arms—reaching up to 7 feet in length—and natural orange coloring. The apes are also impressively large, measuring up to five feet standing and weighing upwards of 180 pounds. In fact, the word “orangutan” is Malay for “person of the forest,” an homage to how human-like these creatures can appear.

01_18_alba3 The orangutan will live in the enclosure with some friends. Photo Courtesy of Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation

According to National Geographic, these creatures are considered to be in danger of extinction due to a number of human activities including hunting. Deforestation has also jeopardized the orangutan’s existence. The apes spend up to 90 percent of their lifetime in the tropical trees, so losing their homes has been detrimental to this already delicate population.

01_18_alba3 Alba will be looked after for the rest of her life. Photo Courtesy of Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation

Alba is expected to move into her new home by June 2018, and here she will hopefully live out the rest of her days in peace and security.