The giant tortoises of the Galapagos Islands are iconic representatives of the wildlife haven made famous by its connection to naturalist Charles Darwin. The jumbo reptiles start off life small, like mini-mes of the adults. One giant tortoise born in Switzerland isn't like its peers. It's a super-rare albino.
The surprising baby, which has red eyes, was born in early May at the Tropiquarium de Servion zoo and is now on public display. The zoo suggested the tortoise's white and red color scheme -- a match for the Swiss flag -- qualifies it as a national mascot.
The albino is one of two new babies. The other is black like its parents. The Tropiquarium said albinism is extremely rare in tortoises and hasn't been observed in Galapagos giant tortoises in the wild.
The baby and its family are part of a conservation program. There are a dozen subspecies, which range from vulnerable to critically endangered on the IUCN Red List, a catalog of threatened species and their conservation statuses.
The Galapagos Conservancy, an organization devoted to preserving the islands' ecosystems, calls out the human impact on the tortoises, tracing back to the 18th and 19th centuries when they were used for food and oil. Poaching, invasive species and loss of habitat are current threats.
The Tropiquarium reported Saturday that the babies have settled into their new habitat and are doing well.