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Ghosted: First Scientific Record of Albino Honey Badger on De Hoop Nature Reserve

30 Oct 2021

BirdLife South Africa and Panthera were granted a research permit to undertake a camera trap survey at De Hoop Nature Reserve to determine the relative abundance of predators which could be a potential threat to the establishment of a new penguin colony at De Hoop. While the purpose of the camera trap survey was focused on species such as leopard and caracal, which have been known to predate on penguins, all species captured on the cameras were recorded.

Among the images captured was an extremely rare albino honey badger (Mellivora capensis), which is the first record of this condition for this species in scientific literature (although we are aware of at least one other record within CapeNature).

Albinism is an inherited disorder which occurs due to a reduction in or absence of melanin formation. The natural colouration of a honey badger is black underparts, including the face, with an off-white dorsal surface, while the albino honey badger is completely white. Albinism generally results in reduced fitness for wild animals, which means a reduced chance of survival, and as a result it is an extremely rare trait as natural selection reduces the chances of this gene being passed on. The reduced fitness is caused by reduced visual perception, increased sensitivity to solar radiation and reduced camouflage – the latter of which affects both predators and prey.

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