CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A rare albino alligator at the South Carolina Aquarium has died after a battle with an infection.
Center officials said the gator named Alabaster passed away on Friday. Last week, the 22-year-old gator began showing signs of infection with a red discoloration on his skin.
Staff said they administered treatments to help Alabaster fight off the infection, giving the gator fluids, antibiotics, vitamins and nutrient supplements.
But despite their best efforts, Alabaster passed away Friday morning.
“For 10 years, Alabaster served as an amazing ambassador for his species, inspiring love and respect for wildlife and wild places in Aquarium staff and guests alike, a gift many will carry with them for a lifetime,” SC Aquarium officials said in a statement."Our hearts are heavy, but we’ll always remember his passion for fish, his ability to remain completely still, and of course, his toothy grin."
Aquarium staff consulted with colleagues around the country, evaluating Alabaster’s treatment plan while heavily monitoring his condition.
“Our entire Aquarium family is mourning the loss of Alabaster,” South Carolina CEO & President Kevin Mills said. “This is an animal that would never have survived in the wild. For more than a decade he lived here at the Aquarium, captivating the hearts of staff and guests alike and serving as an ambassador for his species. He will be dearly missed."
Alabaster, who came to the SC Aquarium in 2009, had albinism, a condition where he lacked melanin, or coloration, in his skin and eyes.
Center officials say albino alligators are extremely rare; it’s estimated there are only about 50 in the world.
“Albino animals have sensitivities to light, poor eyesight and are prone to skin issues,” officials said."They also cannot camouflage themselves, leaving them exposed to predators. Because of these factors, Alabaster could not have survived in the wild."
"The American Alligator was on the brink of extinction, but thanks to the Endangered Species Act has made a remarkable recovery,” Mills said. “We have Alabaster to thank for helping inspire a new generation of environmental stewards to care for animals and species at risk.”