With snow white fur and distinct red eyes, researchers have discovered what is thought to be the first ever albino quoll near Port Hedland, in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.
Quolls are normally light brown and spotted, but this female has bright, white fur and distinct red eyes.
Dr Judy Dunlop, a researcher at the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, said she got a shock when she made the discovery.
“As far as I can tell it’s the first albino of any quoll species, so it’s a very exciting discovery,” she said.
“I was actually on my own when I saw this thing and I was like, ‘What am I going to do with this?’
“I thought I should take a photo straight away because if I let this go no one will believe me.”
Dr Dunlop said the northern quoll was found in the top of WA, as well as in the Northern Territory and parts of Queensland, and its natural habitat faced threats from human activity as well as introduced species such as cane toads.
Northern quolls are normally light brown and spotted. (Skye Cameron, The University of Queensland)
She is part of a research team studying northern quolls which has captured, tagged and released the animals to study their behaviour in their natural habitat.
Dr Dunlop said the albino marsupial found had eight joeys in her pouch.
“She’s healthy and she has pouch young, even though she’s albino. She seems otherwise exactly the same as other quolls,” she said.
Albino animals often are at greater risk from the sun due to their light hair and skin complexions, but Dr Dunlop said the extremely hot and sunny climate in the region would be less of a danger to the albino quoll due to the animal’s nocturnal status.
“During the day they shelter in rocks and crevices and so she would receive no sun anyway,” she said.
“I do wonder if she is more susceptible to predators such as owls — because she stands out so much on those dark red rocks.”
Northern quolls are currently classed as endangered.