The first known wild chimpanzee with albinism was spotted in Uganda, but the rare 19-day-old animal was brutally killed by its fellow pack just days after the first sighting.
Investigations at the University of Zurich in Switzerland entered a horrific scene on July 19, 2018, when they heard screams and cries from the mother and her baby being chased by others in their community.
Just after 7:30 a.m., the team saw an alpha male pull out of a nearby thicket while holding just one arm of the baby albino, according to the findings, which have just been published.
Some other chimpanzees came rushing up and started biting the fingers, leg and ears of the screaming baby who was eventually taken by an adult woman who started gnawing at his head – ending the baby’s life.
The chimpanzees took the carcass to a tree, where they inspected it by sniffing, petting, and inserting their fingers into the anus.
The scientists were able to recover the body three hours after the baby’s death, which allowed them to assess his fellow pack’s injuries.
The first known wild chimpanzee with albinism was spotted in Uganda, but the rare 19-day-old animal was brutally killed by its fellow pack just days after the first sighting. Pictured is the dead baby in a tree while others examine his body
“Significant injuries were present in several body parts, including the absence of the left hand and forearm, the index and middle fingers on the right hand, and the right ear,” wrote Maël Leroux, the study’s lead author and colleagues in the study published in the American Journal of Primatology.
In addition, several deep cuts were visible on the head and the skull was cracked on the right side.
‘The right hemisphere of the brain was damaged. The cause of death was determined to be a head injury caused by a bite from an adult female chimpanzee.’
Albinism is a condition in which pigment is absent from the skin and hair and is found in a number of animals, including humans.
The scientists believe that the aggression of the other chimpanzees is due to the fact that the baby albino looks different from the rest of the pack (stock)
The condition is caused by a defect in one of the genes that produce or distribute melanin and causes albinism.
Investigators first observed the white child on July 15, when it was carried by his mother, known as UP.
The young chimpanzee looked no more than 19 days old, but was the size of a two-week-old — albino animals tend to be smaller than those without the condition.
The team headed to the Budongo Forest Reserve, home to a community of 75 chimpanzees, in hopes of collecting more data on the albino baby.
When they reached the area, loud screams were heard coming from UP, attracting the attention of other chimpanzees rushing to the scene of the accident.
Scientists observed an adult male and a female making alarm sounds and barks, which are typically used by chimpanzees when encountering a dangerous animal or a threatening human.
The female adult attacked UP, with her albino baby clinging to her chest, and beat her.
UP ran up a tree but was followed by a number of adult males who sat at a distance with their eyes on the child cloning on her chest.
“Three minutes later, UP climbed the tree and entered a dense undergrowth that obscured further observations,” the authors wrote in the study.
‘At 10:47 a.m.’ [ON JULY 15?] field assistant Gideon Monday and researcher Pawel Fedurek located UP and the child in an opening in the undergrowth.’
After being harassed, UP ended up in dense vegetation, preventing the team from observing her further.
The scientists think that the aggression of the other chimpanzees is due to the fact that the baby albino looks different from the rest of the pack.
The dramatic story picks up again on July 19 at 7:33 a.m., when field assistant Bosco Chandia and researcher Maël Leroux arrive with a large group of chimpanzees.
‘The chimpanzees produced agonistic and alarm signals such as hoos, waa barks’ [these sound like ‘waaoo’ to the human ear], and screams,” researchers wrote in the study.
“There was an aggressive interaction within the party, but they were in a thick undergrowth and it was not possible to confirm the individuals involved.
“Judging from the noises, the aggression involved repeated physical contact. The screams of a baby could also be heard.’
At 7:34 a.m., an alpha male emerged from the undergrowth and held the child with albinism screaming to his stomach with his right hand — and the white chimpanzee was pronounced dead at 7:41 a.m.
“While it is not possible to draw firm conclusions from this single observation, it appears that the encounter with the child with albinism had an exciting effect on most adult members of the community,” the study said.
“For example, while some individuals reacted calmly to the infant, most adult individuals appeared to react fearfully upon meeting the newborn by keeping their distance and producing alarm sounds and waa-barks.”