Brookfield, Ill. – Guests visiting Brookfield Zoo will have the unique opportunity to see Snowflake, a 16-year-old albino American alligator. Measuring 7 feet long, Snowflake will make his home at The Swamp habitat through September before heading back south to Florida’s St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, a facility accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Albino alligators are extremely rare. Biologists estimate there are only about 100 existing in the world. They are the offspring of parents that carry the recessive gene for albinism, meaning they do not have the ability to create melanin to color their skin or eyes. With their ivory-white skin and pinkish eyes, albino alligators would not survive very long in their native habitat of swamps, marshes, rivers, and lakes in the southeastern United States. Predators would easily find the young alligators because they are not able to camouflage amid their surroundings. Additionally, alligators bask in the sun to regulate their body temperature. However, an albino’s skin is very sensitive and can quickly burn. The sun also burns their eyes, making it harder for the albino alligators to see food and predators.
Historically, the American alligator population was severely impacted by hunting and habitat loss. The species was listed as endangered in 1967 under a law that preceded the Endangered Species Act of 1973. With collaboration between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and agencies in the southern United States, the population recovered and the alligator was removed from the Endangered Species List in 1987.
About the Chicago Zoological Society
The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by engaging people and communities with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Its Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare is at the forefront of animal care that strives to discover and implement innovative approaches to zoo animal management. Brookfield Zoo is the first zoo in the world to be awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals, meeting American Humane Association’s rigorous certification standards. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located at 8400 31st Street in Brookfield, Illinois, between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and also is accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA and PACE bus service. For further information, visit CZS.org.