Reports of albino squirrels hopping up across Croydon may not be as rare as residents would like to think with the first sightings made 100-years-ago in Purley.
A recent visitor to the Horniman’s Museum in Foresthill, was surprised when he saw one such squirrel stuffed, and in a display cabinet.
Roy O’Gorman and his daughter often feed an albino squirrel that lives in the trees near St Gertrude's church in Purley Oaks.
Mr O’Gorman, from South Croydon, said: “My daughter and I have often fed this beautiful creature, who seems quite ready to now eat snacks from our hands.
“Imagine my surprise when looking at exhibits in a Victorian showcase at Horniman's Museum, to see a stuffed white squirrel.
The rare rodent was found in Purley in 1890 and brought to the Museum by either the curator or its creator, Frederick Horniman.
Mr O’Gorman said: “Something tells me this recessive gene for a white coat in squirrels, might not be as recessive as we think.
"Could it be that the latest living specimen has Victorian ancestors.”
Albino squirrels do not live long due to their bright colour which are easily spotted by predators.
They have pink eyes and the albinism is caused by a melanin deficiency.
Only 10 in every one million squirrels are born with albinism.
Albinism is caused by a group of inherited genes. Rare squirrels can also be found in pure black which is caused by melanism – the opposite of Albinism.
A spokeswoman for the Horniman Museum, said: “The albino squirrel, is an interesting example of genetic variation.
"The squirrel isn’t the only Victorian exhibit in the Museum that was bought as a curiosity: the Japanese merman, one of Frederick Horniman’s more exotic purchases, is a fake made from a monkey
torso and a fish tail .”
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