Stephanie Hayes posted to her Instagram travel account on August 11 showing the whale swimming by. The white killer whale is called T’luk, meaning “moon” in Salish. T’luk swims with two other killer whales, known as orcas, in the video. Orcas are typically black and white, while T’luk lacks the expected black coloring.
Hayes states how rare these white killer whales are, writing in her caption, “even researchers never expect to see one in their career.” The orcas were viewed on the Northern Song boat of Alaskan Sea Adventures.
Researchers believe that two-year-old T’luk has leucism, rather than albinism. According to the National Park Service, leucism is “the partial loss of all types of pigmentation.” Albino animals, on the other hand, lack melanin production. Leucism causes white coloration that appears similar to albinism but does not affect the eyes. Jared Towers, a killer whale researcher with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, tells Insider, T’luk is “not quite pure white and it doesn’t have the pink eyes that would indicate albinism”
Leucistic orcas are quite rare. Stephanie Hayes, who took the now-viral video, told CBS News, “There have only been about eight white killer whales ever recorded in the world.” Some sources report it is one of only two white killer whales alive in the world, while others claim it is one of five. Regardless, this young orca is a once in a lifetime sight.