The albino elephant, also known as the white elephant, is a very rare type of elephant. In most cases, the albino elephant is depicted as white, but its skin is, in most cases, a soft-reddish-brown. This color turns to light pink when the elephant is in wet conditions. This kind of elephant has fair toenails and eyelashes.
Albino Elephants in Hinduism
The albino is believed to belong to the god Indra. This elephant is called Airavata and it is a flying elephant. The elephant was made a king of all other elephants by Indra.
Thailand and Albino Elephants
In Thailand, this kind of elephant is a sacred symbol of royal power. If any white elephant is discovered in this country, it is presented to the ruler and a ceremony is held. The more elephants a king has, the greater his standing in the society.
Currently, King Bhumibol Adulyadej has 10 albino elephants, which is considered a great achievement. In the past, albinos were given to friends of kings and his allies as gifts. Great care was taken when handling these elephants since they were considered sacred. Actually, only very rich people and the monarchs could afford them.
White Elephants in Burma
In Burma, the albino elephant has been a revered symbol of good fortune and power. In 2001 and 2004, the ruling military regime announced that it had found albino elephants. This was seen by the opposing side as a way of gathering great support for this regime. As of 2010, three albino elephants are being held on the outskirts of Yangon.
Currently, Burmese rulers keep them and General Than Shwe is regarded as the heir of several Burmese kings white elephants. One of these elephants is grey while the other three are pinkish in color but officially white.
Africa and White Elephants
In Africa, albino elephants are very rare. The few found in this area are pink or reddish-brown and they may suffer from skin problems or blindness due to the exposure to the hot sun.