Do white elephants really exist? Where can they be found?



A completely 'white' elephant exists only in fiction – in a book or a film.

An entirely white animal, bird or a human being is known as ‘albino’. An albino is one that does not have the pigment known as melanin in its skin. Hence, its skin and hair are absolutely white and the eyes somewhat reddish because tiny blood vessels are not camouflaged for want of melanin. Additionally, melanin gives protection against hot sunrays. In the absence of melanin the skin becomes very sensitive to heat and is easily scorched by the hot Sun.

Albinism is found in the ratio of about 1 in every 20,000 camels, snakes, crows, monkeys, lizards, and also human beings. However, a fully albino (white) elephant has not been observed yet though partially albino elephant is sometimes passed as white elephant. The people of Burma and Thailand revere such elephants as divine creatures. They are given royal treatment and not put to work. Perhaps that is why a thing or a person that is the cause of expenditure only without earning its keep is called a ‘white elephant’!

Additional reading:
Albinism (Wikipedia)

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