Jun 222013
Snowflake the Gorilla in September, 2003

If you are a fan of apes, then you probably have heard about the famous albino gorilla, Snowflake.  He was euthanized in 2003 to alleviate his suffering from skin cancer, but recently some genetic tests were done on his remains that found the most likely cause of his rare albinism was inbreeding.

For some time now, it has been a concern among bigfoot researchers that perhaps human development has cut off populations of bigfoots from one another thus forcing them to breed with their own kin.  Often held as evidence of this hypothesis is the prevalence of three-toed footprints.  I would disagree that footprints showing three or four toes indicates inbreeding, though.  I think that these footprints either strongly illustrate the flexibility of the sasquatch foot, or are the results of outright hoaxes.  However, perhaps the prevalence of albino bigfoot sightings might be an indicator of inbreeding, especially in the light of the above revelation about Snowflake?

“Pinkie” and a friend at the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sancuary
A quick search using John Green’s excellent (and searchable) online database indicated that there were 99 reports of white or off-white bigfoots on record.  Certainly, many of these sightings are reporting the same individual bigfoot having been seen multiple times in a certain area.  Also to consider is that Green’s database includes sightings from many decades.

To explore the possibility of albinism being an indicator or possible inbreeding by bigfoots, I undertook a thought experiment.  I plotted Green’s white bigfoot reports on a Google Maps layer, and then tried to attribute the sightings to individual bigfoots.  I took into consideration the sighting locations, their proximity and connectivity via mountain ranges and river systems, the years the bigfoots were spotted combined with the life expectancy of apes, and some size estimates as well (bigfoots would obviously not get smaller as time passed, so strongly differing size estimates where the creature got smaller over time were attributed to multiple individuals).  I color coded the sightings in a way to show what I think might be reasonable to show the same individuals showing up in various locations.

A map showing sighting reports for white bigfoots

I admit that the above process is pretty speculative, but it gave some interesting results.  I have plotted encounters with over thirty white bigfoots since 1955 (there was one outlier from 1938).  It is very possible that some of the sightings I attributed to more than one individual are actually the same bigfoot with either a longer lifespan than I used as a base, or with a stronger wanderlust than I expected.  So, to be more conservative in my estimates, I will cut this estimated number by more than half to just fifteen.

Albanism is pretty rare in any species, but in great apes it is extremely rare.  In humans, about 0.0059% (1 in 17,000) of the population has albinism.  However in the other great apes, the only known examples are Snowflake the gorilla and Pinkie the chimpanzee, both of whom are now dead.  (Certainly there either are other albino individuals in the wild, or have been in the past, but I”ll ignore this for our purposes.)

Snowflake casting the camera a sidelong glance.

Looking at the population estimates of the the three great ape species with documented albinism might give us some vague insight into whether or not this could be an indicator of inbreeding in bigfoots.  Using the numbers for humans (1 in 17,000), the 15 individual bigfoots hypothesized above would give a population of bigfoots as around 255,000.  This is clearly way off the chart as far as a reasonable population estimate for bigfoots.  

Using the other apes gives us no better estimate for bigfoots, as albinism is even rarer in those species.  The world populations estimated are 100,000 to 200,000 for chimpanzees, and an estimated 100,000 for the lowland gorilla (the species Snowflake was).  There are no known examples of albino mountain gorillas nor orangutans.  Again, using 15 individual bigfoots and applying the population numbers for other apes, the calculations yield over a million bigfoots.  Obviously way too many for an obviously rare species.
I suppose it is possible that albinism is more common in bigfoots than in any other species of great ape, but this seems unlikely.  Also possible is that my numbers are way off due to incorrect speculation on my part, hoaxing or misidentification on the part of witnesses, or any number of errors.  Also to consider would be these “white” bigfoots actually being of the more blonde variety which would be far more common, or even that bigfoot hair turns increasingly more grey or white as they grow older as humans do.  However, I also believe that not all witnesses who have seen white bigfoots have reported them, further confusing the matter.  
From my efforts to reverse engineer a reasonable bigfoot population estimate from the number of white bigfoot sightings, it seems that these individuals are being seen way too often to indicate a normal ratio of albinos in their population.  It seems that there are way too many individual bigfoots with albinism than there should be.

I see no way around the idea that inbreeding could possibly be affecting the bigfoot population.  Inbreeding seemed reasonable even before this thought experiment due to the species’ rarity, as well as the possibility of human development cutting off breeding populations.  If my assumption that bigfoot genetics generally should follow the same pattern as the other apes (including humans) is correct, even one albino bigfoot report should be extremely rare, and there are dozens of sightings describing white bigfoots.  

As always, seeking answers about bigfoots yields more questions than answers.

  No Responses to “Inbreeding Caused Albinism in this Ape, Why not Bigfoots?”

  1. Do these people who reported albino Bigfoots know for a fact they were albino? Is it possible these were just white Bigfoots? Aren't Yeti's white? And related to Bigfoot or another area's version of a Sasquatch? Sorry I'm not real educated on the Yeti, though I like them.
    Or could the white Bigfoots be older Bigfoots? Animals' hair changes color sometimes too with age.
    Just a thought. You got me thinking..

  2. Have been actually pondering this for a while, I had first thought they were just older Bigfoots and that's why there hair was the white-ish hue. and then I got to thinking about what kind of diseases could yield these results. I have actually heard a few reports (not reported to bfro) about them being in soybean fields here in Ohio.(Newark / Pataskala area) in the middle of the night. I thought this to be very strange because , I really don't see that many albino Humans and don't hear about it much in chimps either really.You may be onto something here, Great thought experiments! Yes so many questions , so little answers, yet so many possibility's.

  3. Your experiment in plotting albino sightings is very interesting. It reminded me of another study done in silver foxes over 40 years in Russia (http://www.terrierman.com/russianfoxfarmstudy.pdf http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domesticated_silver_fox). While I do understand that foxes are not primates, there is an interesting outcome of the study. The foxes', bred in captivity, fur changed in color over time as a way to deal with the stress response (those foxes that more easily adapted to human contact were bred together and over time there color changed) . If Humanity is encroaching in on Sasquatch it makes one wonder other mammals would respond in the same sort of way. The ones that can tolerate human contact tend to breed with one another more often. Just a thought. Thanks for the great article.

  4. hiflier,

    Albino Sasquatch sightings in various locations may indicate an intolerance within the species for some reason that exiles the recessive trait owner to a life of nomadic solitude.

  5. The "Whitening" of BF hair could be as simple as what happens to human hair as we age.

    Picture a BF using that spray on hair paint these used to sell on t.v and not laugh

  6. Pretty cool stuff. I have seen an Albino gator, but not in the wild lol.

    I saw an Albino little girl the other day, her parents were African American so it was interesting to see their child pale white. Obviously I didnt stare at the little girl, but its crazy: 1 in 17,000 wow

  7. Don't assume that sightings (reported or otherwise) constitute a good cross-sectional sample of the population. A sighting or optical bias, rooted in the capabilities and limitations of human sight, could conceivably account for a disproportionately high number of "albino" bigfoot sightings, if we assume the species existence for expediency of argument. After all, white (or any sufficiently light hue) is easier to spot in most cover and vegetation (and at night, too) than darker hues like black, browns and auburns. It could just be that the greater contrast between white hair and a given background leads to an overrepresentation of such traits in reported sightings.