Typically, when a person sees a pink elephant, it’s because they’re experiencing hallucinations resulting from drinking too much. Seeing a pink hippopotamus, on the other hand, doesn’t have anything to do with alcohol intake—it just means you’ve seen a very rare animal.
According to Yahoo News and the New York Post, one French couple recently had the chance to see such a creature as it bathed alongside traditional, gray-colored hippos at Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve. Fortunately, they were able to snap a photo of the unusual creature.
Laurent Renaud, who spotted the hippo along with his wife Dominique this winter, told the Daily Mail, “We knew the pink hippo was in a group of hippos in a bend of the river—people talked about it, but we were never sure whether it was real or a myth or not.
“So to see it in real life was an absolutely life changing experience,” he explained. “We checked the area every day and we were lucky enough to spot and to photograph it. I could barely get my camera out to take the photo, I was shaking so much!”
So what caused this hippo to turn pink?
The pink coloring of the hippopotamus, which also included a few speckled gray spots, is said to be due to a condition called leucism that is caused by a partial loss of pigmentation. Even though this sounds similar to albinism, or the absence of melatonin throughout an animal’s entire body, this condition differs in that it only affects the skin, scales, or feathers.
Leucism is caused by a reduction in multiple types of pigments, not just melanin, the Daily Mail added. It does not affect the creature’s eyes, which is why the hippo in the Renaud’s picture has a pair of dark-colored eyes just like the gray-colored members of the herd, not red ones.
While the pink hippo certainly stands out, as Yahoo News and the New York Post explained, this is not necessarily a good thing. The unusual color makes it harder for it to blend into the scenery, which in turn makes it more likely to be spotted by predators. In addition, the pink hue makes this hippo more likely to suffer sunburn than its gray-colored counterparts.
Feature Image: YouTube screengrab