Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Rare wild albino rabbit spotted in Fermanagh

Albino rabbits like Whitey are easy prey for predators
Albino rabbits like Whitey are easy prey for predators

This cute little fellow might look like he's someone's pet bunny enjoying a break from his hutch – but in fact he is a highly unusual wild albino rabbit.

'Whitey' was spotted eating grass at the side of the road by Enniskillen Agriculture College teacher Sue Harpur on her way to work.

"He was at the foot of a large grassy bank. Rather than leave him to be killed on the road, I enlisted the help of one of my students and returned to rescue Whitey as quickly as we could," she said.

"When we arrived back at the bank, my student leapt out of the car and quietly approached the little white rabbit in an attempt to pick him up, while I parked the car."

However, the albino rabbit proved to be light on its paws, racing up the bank to avoid capture.

"As I was climbing up the bank, I suddenly realised that the bank was in fact a huge rabbit warren, hosting a large number of young rabbits.

"I drive past here every day and had never noticed this before," Sue explained.

"To my surprise, Whitey disappeared down a rabbit hole, popping up again to look around confidently." According to a local vet consulted by Sue, albino animals tend not to survive for long in the wild as they stand out like a beacon to their predators.

"In addition to this, their poor eyesight means that they may run into danger, rather away from it," she said.

"Having now observed Whitey over a period of five days, I have seen that he moves amazingly quickly and has no trouble finding the nearest rabbit hole, when in need of safety.

"He does, unfortunately, spend a lot of his time at the side of the road in full view of every car and passerby.

"I really do hope that he manages to live a long and fruitful life."

Factfile

Albinism is a lack of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes due to the lack of an enzyme that produces melanin. The condition has been seen in everything from blackbirds and skunks to turtles and rays, but the most famous albino animal was probably Snowflake, a gorilla in Barcelona Zoo.

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