Alabaster, the 22-year-old albino alligator, at the South Carolina Aquarium. South Carolina Aquarium/Provided

The extremely rare albino alligator at the South Carolina Aquarium died Friday after a long illness.

Alabaster, the 22-year-old gator, became disinterested in food and suffered from a skin rash on parts of his body last week.

He was believed to be one of only about 50 albino alligators left in the world, according to Caroline Morris, an aquarium spokesperson.

He arrived at the aquarium in 2009 and was one of its most popular attractions.

“Our entire Aquarium family is mourning the loss of Alabaster,” South Carolina Aquarium CEO & President Kevin Mills said.

“This is an animal that would never have survived in the wild. For more than a decade, he lived here at the Aquarium, captivating the hearts of staff and guests alike and serving as an ambassador for his species. He will be dearly missed," Mills said.

Alabaster's exhibit was closed last Thursday after aquarium officials reported he began showing signs of infection. 

The aquarium posted the news of Alabaster's death on its Facebook page Friday afternoon. Thirty minutes after it was posted, it had almost 150 comments from people sharing their condolences and fond memories of Alabaster. 

"Today, we mourn the loss of a beloved Aquarium family member: Alabaster the albino alligator," the aquarium's Facebook statement said.

The statement added that staff "went straight to work administering treatments to help Alabaster's body fight off the infection, including fluids, antibiotics, vitamins, and nutrient supplementation. We consulted with colleagues around the country, evaluating Alabaster's treatment plan while heavily monitoring his condition."

Despite efforts, the gator did not recover.

"For 10 years, Alabaster served as an amazing ambassador for his species, inspiring love and respect for wildlife and wild places in Aquarium staff and guests alike, a gift many will carry with them for a lifetime," the message read. "Our hearts are heavy, but we’ll always remember his passion for fish, his ability to remain completely still, and of course, his toothy grin."

Recent research into alligators have found their life expectancy can extend past 50 or 60 years.

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Jenna Schiferl is a Columbia native and a reporter at The Post and Courier. She has previously worked as an editor at Garnet & Black Magazine.

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