National Geographic : 1970 Oct
the persistence of a circus clown. He enjoys people as much as they do him. Time and again I have seen him stand erect to look at us through the window glass of his cage, hands shading his blue eyes like a shopper peering into a showcase. A sly grin creases his pink face, and the thought strikes one with a jolt: Are we on display? While Snowflake plays to his audience, Muni is a gorilla's gorilla, leading in their games and pioneering their explorations, TWO-YEAR-OLD Snowflake peers from the cover of the March 1967 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC. In that issue, Dr. Riopelle broke the news of how the world's first white gorilla had been discovered in Rio Muni, then an African province of Spain, where the scientist was conducting a Geographic-sponsored study of lowland gorillas. 492 while behaving with almost complete indif ference to spectators. In a rare genetic co incidence, a recessive trait inherited from Snowflake's parents prevented his pigment producing cells from synthesizing the dark substance called mel anin. The result is a startling distinction, but one readily ac cepted by the normally colored Muni. We have paid par ticular attention to Snowflake's albinism to answer the question: "Is he different from other gorillas?" Hap pily, we believe not, except, of course, for his color and for his slightly impaired day light vision, often a side effect of albinism. With the excellent care he gets, he could live for another 30 years and eventually weigh more than 500 pounds. Now a husky 6-year-old adolescent weigh ing about 100 pounds, Snowflake sometimes nearly topples me with a playful tug of his strong arms. Caution may soon put an end to my playtime with this milk-white friend, but his contribution to man's knowledge of pri mates has only begun. MEETING HIS PUBLIC, Snowflake delights Spanish school children of his own age. Lest the ape's boister ous friendship alarm the youngsters, keeper Fernando Terrer, left, and vet erinarian Dr. Romin Luera Carb6 keep a firm hold on his powerful arms. KODACHROMEBY MICHAELKUH @ N.G .S .