Nature is full of surprises, as we have often seen for ourselves. Nature never ceases to astound us with its beauty and individuality, whether it’s a wild owl choosing to perch on your head, running into a pink manta ray, capturing a solar eclipse with “perfect timing,” or discovering a tiny giraffe. This time, it’s in the style of creatures that aren’t the color that they ought to be by nature. In particular, a nature guide had the good fortune to discover and photograph a rare yellow-colored penguin in the wild.
Meet Yves Adams, a Belgian photo tour guide, wildlife photographer, and expedition leader who embarked on a two-month photo trip in the South Atlantic in 2019. The team had to stop on an island in South Georgia to take pictures of a king penguin colony that included more than 120,000 penguins!
Adams saw something unusual when offloading supplies and food at the Salisbury Plain: among the sea of tuxedos, he saw a penguin that wasn’t black and white but rather a vibrant yellow (and white). Adams told in an interview, “I’d never seen or heard of a yellow penguin before.” There were 120,000 birds on that seashore, but only this one was yellow. Although research on leucism in penguins dates back to 2000, it is crucial to note that this is not the first time a yellow penguin has been seen in history. Nevertheless, it appears that these photographs are the first of their sort to have been posted online, much alone with such clarity.
Not only were they fortunate to have come upon the bird in the first place, but it was also close enough to the party of photo explorers—about 50 meters (150 feet) away—to be captured in all of its yellow-coated splendor. There were no seals, other animals in the way, or other penguins in the way. It turns out that the reason why this yellow specimen is special is that it has a condition called leucism, in which the animal loses some of its pigmentations and changes color as a result. Unlike albinism, this condition doesn’t affect the eyes and causes the animal to become white, pale, or patchy on its skin, hair, feathers, or scales.
It is yet unclear how this issue may affect survival. But it is reasonable to assume that, like with many unusual occurrences among species, it may ultimately have some form of impact on things like finding a mate or being easier or harder to identify by predators, of which they have a large number. A number of online news publications covered the story and thousands of people liked Adams’ photos on various social media sites due to the captivating nature of his images. It also made it onto websites like Reddit and Imgur, where it received over 100,000 upvotes and 60,000 views, respectively.
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