On EleFACT Friday, we like to bring you facts about elephants that you may have never heard, elaborate on some lesser-known theories, and share more detailed stories about the sanctuary elephants and their anatomy. Today, however, we’ll be busting a myth.
You may have heard of the phrase “seeing pink elephants” to describe someone who’s maybe had a bit too much to drink. But is there any validity to that phrase?
Seeing a pink elephant isn’t actually impossible, although it is extremely rare and doesn’t have anything to do with a night out on the town. There are some elephants with a condition called leucism, which causes an abnormal or reduced pigmentation that is marked by an overall pale color. The animals have a genetic mutation that inhibits melanin and other pigments from being deposited in their skin or hair. Different from albinism, this condition can actually lead to elephant calves appearing as pink, since it causes their skin to be a much lighter shade of red or brown.
Leucistic elephants’ pigmentation typically darkens as they grow older, only leaving pink behind their ears. Spotting a fully pink calf in the wild is extremely rare. Elephants experiencing this condition may encounter issues in harsh weather conditions, as sunlight can be extremely damaging to their lighter skin.
In Asian elephants, pink skin can be present and seen as speckling across their bodies, which is due to a lack of pigmentation and not leucism. This can be influenced by genetics, nutrition, habitat, or age.
Photo of Maia, showing off her speckled skin pigment
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Rachel saysNovember 5, 2021 at 2:35 pm
Love it! Thanks for the myth busting education.
Carol saysNovember 5, 2021 at 3:26 pm
Interesting… I always assumed that the pigmentation was due to the sloughing of her epidermis. Rubbing and scratching on tree trunks. Shows you how ignorant I am.
Thank you for the explanation!!
Sara saysNovember 5, 2021 at 3:31 pm
We all learn something new every day, it seems!
Beji saysNovember 5, 2021 at 5:18 pm
Oh my….and I thought that 3rd glass of wine was a bad idea..
I did see some pretty in pink eles…just kidding…sorta…
Tammy saysNovember 5, 2021 at 8:44 pm
Maia such a pretty girl in pink! We always learn so much thank you for another interesting lesson about elephants i really enjoy how the girls are the stars it also helps bring us closer to them too a win win for sure! 🐘 💞 🐘
Debbie Sides saysNovember 6, 2021 at 12:31 am
Is that what Khanyisa at HERD is because they often refer to her as pink. She’s cute as a button!
Sallie saysNovember 6, 2021 at 4:10 am
AWWWW, PRECIOUS MAIA, You look stunning in your “Pinkness”, and you look perfect for Fall and Thanksgiving! I cannot wait to see what you do for Christmas! Congrats on your impressive styling from head to toe. Can’t wait to see what you do with your curly locks for Christmas! Big virtual hugs to your and your gal friends.
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EleFact Friday: Pink Elephants On Parade?