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Rare albino alligator has died in South Carolina -- after an infection turned it red

The South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston announced the death of the albino alligator -- named Alabaster -- in a Facebook post on Friday, July 19.
The South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston announced the death of the albino alligator -- named Alabaster -- in a Facebook post on Friday, July 19. South Carolina Aquarium photo

One of the world’s most unsettling alligators has died in South Carolina, after an infection started turning its ghostly white skin to an even more unnerving shade of red.

Yes, a red alligator.

The South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston announced the death of the albino alligator -- named Alabaster -- in a Facebook post on Friday, July 19.

Meet Pearl - an albino alligator with skin so bright she truly lives up to her name. Park officials at Gatorland in Orlando, Florida, said the alligator has become the star attraction at the 110-acre preserve.

It did not disclose the specifics of what killed the “beloved” alligator, but symptoms included loss of interest in food, officials said.

“Last week, Alabaster began showing signs of infection, which was presenting as a red discoloration on his skin,” the post said.

“Vet staff went straight to work administering treatments to help Alabaster’s body fight off the infection, including fluids, antibiotics, vitamins, and nutrient supplementation... Despite our best efforts, Alabaster passed away this morning.”

In memorializing Alabaster, aquarium staff lamented they would “always remember his passion for fish, his ability to remain completely still, and of course, his toothy grin.”

The alligator came to the aquarium in 2009 and “one of about 50 albino alligators known to be alive in the world,” according to The State newspaper. Alabaster was 22 years old and considered one of the tourist destination’s biggest attractions, reported the Charleston Post & Courier.

“Albino alligators... lack the ability to produce melanin in their skin,” explains Alligatoradventures.com. “This lack of pigment, though viewed as beautiful, has its downside. Most albino alligators rarely make it to adulthood because they are not able to camouflage themselves making them an easy target in the wild.”

Such gators are also “extremely sensitive to sunlight,” says the site, and can actually suffer from a sunburn.

Alabaster was part of the aquarium’s Coastal Plain exhibit, with other alligators, rattlesnakes and a carnivorous Venus flytrap plant.

An orange alligator was spotted in Hanahan, S.C. Josh Zalabak at the South Carolina Aquarium says his orange color is not natural, and it might be caused by a variety of factors. In the meanwhile, neighbors have dubbed the him the "Trump-A-Gator."

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, the LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.
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