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Why this donkey is white

Mwingi Times toured Tseikuru ward and encountered a rather unfamiliar scenario where it spotted a white donkey grazing in Kyamututa, Masyungwa location.

An albino donkey in Kyamututa, Tseikuru ward, Kitui County. Photo/MUSYOKA NGUI

Upon inquiry, an expert in animal health said that the animal is special having suffered albinism at birth.

The scientist said that the gene mutation challenges doesn’t happen to donkeys alone but to all animals including humans.

Here’s the take of Cyril Mwinzi, a former Team Leader with ActionAid International Kenya, Mwingi and a Bachelor of Science (Environmental Science) graduate from Egerton University. He also holds a Master’s degree in project planning and management from the University of Nairobi.

When asked about what makes the donkey white, Cyril says “This is albinism. Albinism is a recessive gene which makes an organism. It leads to non-synthesis of skin pigmentation. The gene only expresses itself in homozygous state”, he says.

He goes on: Even rats, flies name any living organism. The codon that codes for the synthesis of the skin pigment is deleted or poorly constituted, and therefore pigment is either poorly synthesised or lacking altogether.


Such organisms have a myriad of survival challenges including inability to withstand ultra violet rays. That's why human albinos have to wear hats as a coping mechanism during hot weather, or use sunscreen creams to avoid skin burns.

For donkeys I don't know how they cope. But from my own observations donkeys with albinism appear dull and less vigorous than the ones with normal pigmentation.

According to me, this could be attributed to survival challenges posed by the albinism. It is not a very common gene since it only expresses itself in homogeneous state especially when two normal parents have the gene in recessive state (heterozygous).

They have a probability of having a child who is an albino. One Normal parent and an albino may have all normal offsprings who will be heterozygous for the gene. Such children will have the gene but its expression will be masked (dominated) by the gene for the normal pigmentation. One can have normal children with the normal female" concluded Mr Mwinzi.



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