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Snowflake (gorilla)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
SpeciesWestern lowland gorilla
Bornc. 1964
Spanish Guinea
DiedNovember 24, 2003(2003-11-24) (aged 38–39)
Barcelona Zoo, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Years active1966–2003
Known forBeing the world's only known albino gorilla

Snowflake (Catalan: Floquet de Neu, Spanish: Copito de Nieve, French: Flocon de Neige; c. 1964 – 24 November 2003) was a western lowland gorilla who is the world's only known albino gorilla to date.[1] He was kept at Barcelona Zoo in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, from 1966 until his death in 2003.[2][3]


Snowflake was captured in the Río Muni region in Spanish Guinea on 1 October 1966 by ethnic Fang farmer Benito Mañé. Mañé had killed the rest of Snowflake's gorilla group (traditional in colour). Mañé then kept Snowflake at his home for four days before transporting him to Bata, where he was purchased by primatologist Jordi Sabater Pi.[4]

Originally named Nfumu Ngui in Fang language ("white gorilla") by his captor, he was then nicknamed Floquet de Neu (Catalan for "little snowflake"[5]) by his keeper, Jordi Sabater Pi.[6][7]


Snowflake was a western lowland gorilla with non-syndromic oculocutaneous albinism.[8][9][10] He had poor vision, though tests to determine whether he had a central blind spot did not find one.[11] Barcelona Zoo director Antonio Jonch wrote:

"The eye had a blueish sclera, a normal cornea, and a light blue iris which was very transparent to transillumination. Accommodation and refraction were normal. The media were transparent and the fundus of the eye normal and totally depigmented. The choroidal vessels were perfectly visible and the pupil was normal. The animal displayed marked photophobia, which caused it to close its eyes repeatedly when exposed to bright light. In diffuse light similar to that in its biotope, we calculated that it blinked on an average of 20 times a minute."[10]

Study of Snowflake's genome determined that his parents had 12% of their DNA in common, leading researchers to believe that his parents were uncle and niece. The same study revealed that his albinism was caused by a mutation of the SLC45A2 gene. Snowflake received the recessive gene from both parents, causing his albinism.[8][12]

Life in Barcelona[edit]

Snowflake resting in his enclosure
Floquet de Neu (August 1993)

Upon his arrival to Barcelona in November 1966, he was given an official reception by the then-mayor of Barcelona, Josep Maria de Porcioles, and called Blancanieves ("Snow White") in the newspaper Tele/Exprés.[13] He became famous, though, with the name given to him by Sabater when National Geographic featured him on the cover in March 1967, with the English name Snowflake. This name spread among the press (Stern, Life, Paris-Match). Sabater himself called the gorilla Copi or Floquet, and in the later years Nfumu.


Snowflake fathered 22 offspring by three different mates, or "dams". Six of his offspring survived to adulthood.[14] None of Snowflake's offspring were albino, but all should be heterozygous, recessive carriers, for the albino gene.[15] Half of his grandchildren likely carry the albino gene. If both parents were albino gene carriers, they have a 25% chance of producing an albino offspring and a 50% chance that the offspring will be a carrier of the gene.[16]

As of September 2021, Snowflake had a total of 21 grandchildren (11 survived) and eight great-grandchildren (all living).[17] Snowflake's great-grandson N'Kou has pink fingers, which is perhaps suggestive of partial albinism.[citation needed]


In 2001, Snowflake was diagnosed with an unusual form of skin cancer, almost certainly related to his albinism.[18] By 2003, Snowflake's health began to deteriorate. After he began losing interest in his usual activities, isolating himself from other gorillas and exhibiting signs of pain, Snowflake's keepers decided to euthanize him.[19] The decision was publicly announced in September 2003.[14] Thousands of people visited Snowflake at the Barcelona Zoo before he was euthanized on 24 November 2003. At the time of his death, Snowflake was thought to be between 38 and 40 years old.[14][20]


A room dedicated to Snowflake
  • The asteroid 95962 Copito, discovered by Spanish astronomer J. Manteca, is named in his honour.[21]
  • A scholarship for research on primatology was created in memory of and homage to Snowflake. Snowflake's fame also helped to promote awareness of the endangered gorilla species.[19]
  • An illustration and brief description of Snowflake (as of 1969) appears in the Italian children nonfiction book series Guarda e Scopri Gli Animali.[22]
  • The gorilla became a main character in the novel Memòries d'en Floquet de Neu ("Snowflake's Memories") by Catalan writer Toni Sala.
  • Sabater Pi also dedicated a book to the gorilla, under the title Copito para Siempre (Snowflake Forever).
  • He also makes a brief appearance in Italo Calvino's novel Mr. Palomar – the passage is a meditation on loneliness, captivity, the burden of being unique in the world, and mortality.
  • Nature on PBS devoted an episode to him.
  • Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins wrote of Snowflake in his poem, "Searching," published in his 2008 collection, Ballistics.[23]
  • Snowflake appears on the front cover of dance music act Basement Jaxx's album Rooty.[24]
  • While playing at FC Barcelona, Dutch football player Ronald Koeman was nicknamed Copito de Nieve because of his blond hair.
  • Snowflake appeared on The Triplets (Les Tres Bessones) episode "The Triplets meet King Kong" as a guest of honor for the appearance of King Kong in Barcelona's Olympic Stadium.
  • In 2009 French musician Enzo Enzo [fr] released the album Toutim where the song Copito De Nieve De Barcelone is dedicated to Snowflake.[25]
  • In 2011, there was a live action/CGI film called Snowflake, the White Gorilla that depicts the fictional childhood of Snowflake (voiced by Kai Stroink in the original Spanish version and by Ariana Grande in the English dub).

Albino gorillas in other media[edit]

Other albino (or white-furred) gorillas similar in appearance to Snowflake have appeared in different media.

  • Prior to the birth of Snowflake, the film Son of Kong featured King Kong's son, which was an albino gorilla that was twice the height of a human and was named "Little Kong".
  • In Legends of Chima, the Gorilla Tribe member Grizzam has white fur similar to Snowflake.
  • A white-furred gorilla appears in the French superhero comic series Photonik (featuring in "African Devil"; Volume 1, Mustang #66, 1981),[26] serving as the totem for an evil shaman who wishes to rule all of Africa. As was the case with Snowflake, his entire group is killed by an unscrupulous poacher, and the white gorilla sold into captivity.
  • In The Flash, Solovar was depicted as an albino gorilla.
  • In the Planet of the Apes franchise, an albino western lowland gorilla named Winter (voiced and motion-captured by Aleks Paunovic), appears in Caesar's tribe and defected to the Colonel's side out of fear.
  • In the 2018 film Rampage (which is based on the video game series of the same name), George (motion-captured by Jason Liles) is albino in the movie adaptation to differentiate him from King Kong. Dwayne Johnson stated that George is based on Snowflake.
  • In World of Warcraft, Uhk'loc is a rare tamable gorilla NPC with a unique silver/white skin.[27]
  • In Zoo Empire, you can unlock the Albino gorilla as a species. There's also a program named Snowflake at the education center.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Las crónicas sobre Copito en La Vanguardia.
  2. ^ "Albino animals: from Snowflake the white gorilla to White Diamond the alligator". telegraph.co.uk. Archived from the original on October 26, 2014. Retrieved October 25, 2014.
  3. ^ Sorokanich, Lara (June 18, 2013). "Albino Gorilla Was Result of Inbreeding". nationalgeographic.com. Archived from the original on July 9, 2014. Retrieved October 25, 2014.
  4. ^ Riopelle, A.J., "Snowflake the world's first white gorilla", National Geographic 131: 442–8, March 1967
  5. ^ "The Name Is Snowflake", The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, May 28, 1967
  6. ^ Sabater's pictures Archived 2009-08-04 at the Wayback Machine, at the Sabater Pi Collection at the Universitat de Barcelona
  7. ^ "Little Snowflake, World's First White Gorilla", The Palm Beach Post, February 22, 1967
  8. ^ a b Javier Prado-Martinez; Irene Hernando-Herraez; Belen Lorente-Galdos; Marc Dabad; Oscar Ramirez; Carlos Baeza-Delgado; Carlos Morcillo-Suarez; Can Alkan; Fereydoun Hormozdiari; Emanuele Raineri; Jordi Estellé; Marcos Fernandez-Callejo; Mònica Valles; Lars Ritscher; Torsten Schöneberg; Elisa de la Calle-Mustienes; Sònia Casillas; Raquel Rubio-Acero; Marta Melé; Johannes Engelken; Mario Caceres; Jose Luis Gomez-Skarmeta9; Marta Gut; Jaume Bertranpetit; Ivo G Gut; Teresa Abello; Evan E Eichler; Ismael Mingarro; Carles Lalueza-Fox; Arcadi Navarro; Tomas Marques-Bonet (May 31, 2013). "The genome sequencing of an albino western lowland gorilla reveals inbreeding in the wild". BMC Genomics. 14: 363. doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-363. PMC 3673836. PMID 23721540.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ International Wildlife Encyclopedia Vol. 20, Marshall Cavendish Corporation/New York, 1970, pg. 2710
  10. ^ a b Duplaix-Hall, Nicole; Antonio Jonch (1967). "The White Gorilla (Gorilla g. gorilla) At Barcelona Zoo". International Zoo Yearbook. Vol. XIII. London: Zoological Society of London. p. 196. OCLC 604039131.
  11. ^ Riopelle, A.J., "Growing up with Snowflake", National Geographic, 138:490–503, October 1970
  12. ^ Pappas, Stephanie (June 17, 2013). "Albino Gorilla 'Snowflake' Was Inbred, Gene Sequence Shows". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on June 6, 2014. Retrieved June 6, 2014.
  13. ^ anuaris.cat Archived 2008-10-14 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ a b c "Meet Snowflake The World's Only Known Albino Gorilla". thenigertimes.com. November 29, 2003. Archived from the original on March 16, 2015. Retrieved October 25, 2014.
  15. ^ "What Is An Albino Monkey, And How Rare Are They? - Technology Org". www.technology.org. 2022-10-22. Retrieved 2022-12-11.
  16. ^ "Albinism". nhs.uk. 2017-11-23. Retrieved 2022-12-11.
  17. ^ Davis, James R. (June 1, 2014). "0281 – SNOWFLAKE". Dewar Wildlife. Dewar Wildlife Trust, Inc. Archived from the original on June 6, 2014. Retrieved June 6, 2014.
  18. ^ Staff writers (September 22, 2003). "Albino gorilla dying of skin cancer". BBC News. Archived from the original on June 7, 2004. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
  19. ^ a b "Snowflake: The White Gorilla". pbs.org. 9 June 2008. Archived from the original on October 26, 2014. Retrieved October 25, 2014.
  20. ^ "Zoo Has Euthanized Ailing Albino Gorilla". Los Angeles Times. November 25, 2003. Archived from the original on December 11, 2014. Retrieved October 25, 2014.
  21. ^ "Asteroide Copito de Nieve" Archived 2007-03-17 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Mario Faustinelli and Rinaldo D. D'Ami: Guarda e Scopri Gli Animali Volume 11: Dell'Africa. AMZ, Milano 1969.
  23. ^ Collins, Billy (October 2008). "Poetry: Billy Collins, 'Searching'". theatlantic.com. Archived from the original on October 26, 2014. Retrieved October 25, 2014.
  24. ^ "This is the original shot of a White gorilla called Copito (Snowflake) which then went on to form the main inspiration for the Rooty album artwork". Basement Jaxx's Official Facebook page. Basement Jaxx. 8 August 2012. Retrieved 27 May 2024. This is the original shot of a White gorilla called Copito (Snowflake) which then went on to form the main inspiration for the Rooty album artwork.
  25. ^ "Enzo Enzo, Toutim (best of)". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04.
  26. ^ Cool French Comics: Photonik. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  27. ^ "Uhk'loc".

Further reading[edit]

  • Riopelle, A.J., "Snowflake the world's first white gorilla", National Geographic 131:442-8, March 1967
  • "Unique in all gorilladom: Roman Luera Carbo's Snowflake", Life 62:69–70, March 31, 1967
  • Riopelle, A.J., "Growing up with Snowflake", National Geographic 138:490–503, October 1970
  • Jonch, Antonio, "The White Gorilla (Gorilla g. gorilla) At Barcelona Zoo", International Zoo Yearbook Vol. XIII, 1967, pg. 196
  • Schmeck, Harold M. Jr., "First Known White Gorilla Is Found", The New York Times F. 23 pgs. 1:5 & 41:2
  • "Rare albino gorilla dies", The Montreal Gazette, November 25, 2003, pg. A.21
  • Gerritsen, Vivienne Baillie (August 2004) "Snowy stardom". Protein Spotlight (SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics).
  • https://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/snowflake Nature episode: "Snowflake: The White Gorilla" at PBS.org
  • Tavella, Elizabeth (2023). "Reframing Whiteness in the Zoo: Snowflake the Gorilla in Modern Media". In Thurston-Torres, Jonathan W. (ed.). Animals and Race.