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Gdańsk. Popular albino named 'Penguin of the Year'

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Kokosanka, an albino penguin from the Gdańsk Zoo, became the “Penguin of the Year”. Thanks to Internet users' votes, she defeated rivals from all over the world. Its enormous popularity may now contribute to saving African birds living in the wild.

After over a month of fighting and outdoing many penguins from around the world, Kokosanka from the Gdańsk Zoo reached the finals of the “March of the Penguin Madness” competition organized by Penguins International. This is a plebiscite to choose your favorite penguin. Internet users can vote for their favorites, who are nominated by zoos and sanctuaries from around the world. In the last stage, you could only vote for three penguins. Kokosanka outclassed her rivals.

Kokosanka from Gdańsk with the title of “Penguin of the Year” GOZ

A total of 800,000 votes were cast in the entire competition. Second place went to Littlefoot the king penguin from the Kansas City Zoo, and third place went to Pearl the emperor penguin chick from SeaWorld.

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– Our Kokosanka, the only albino penguin in the world, became the queen of penguins, collecting over 75,000 votes. Our albino will promote this species all over the world. This is very important because over the last 100 years the penguin population has decreased by 90 percent, says Emilia Salach, director of the Gdańsk Zoo.

In 2000, the population of Cape penguins was estimated at approximately 50,000 pairs, today it is approximately 20,000. Their population is decreasing due to numerous threats, such as climate change, overfishing, as well as oil and microplastic pollution. This is one of the reasons why zoos conduct conservation breeding of the species, but also support activities in the natural environment. As Salach emphasizes, Kokosanka is a representative of the largest flock in the Gdańsk garden, because there are 86 penguins, and last year as many as 16 cubs were born.

– We would like to do something good for nature. We founded collection, the beneficiary of which will be the SANCCOB foundation, which protects birds off the coast of South Africa. It focuses its activities on helping Cape penguins. They rescue birds from ecological disasters and also take care of orphaned chicks, says Izabela Szopińska, president of the Gdańsk Zoo Foundation.

The herd accepts her differences

The coconut hatched on December 12, 2018. She is a representative of a flock of African sunken penguins – a species with black and white colors. She is the only albino penguin. Although albinism is not perceived well by animals living in nature, Kokosanka feels great in her herd.

The herd accepts Kokosanka's differences Grzegorz Mehring/gdańsk.pl

As representatives of the Gdańsk Zoo explain, it owes its uniqueness to disorders of the metabolism of the enzyme tyrosinase – its lack in albinos does not allow the transformation of the melanin precursor into full-value melanin. This genetic pigmentation anomaly is manifested by the absence of the pigment – melanin – present in the skin and hair. Additionally, albino individuals have red eyes due to a pigmentation deficit in the iris. The lack of this pigment makes us see the blood vessels present in the eyes.

Main photo source: GOZ

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