Alabaster, the 22-year-old albino alligator at the South Carolina Aquarium. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

The popular albino alligator that lives at the South Carolina Aquarium has been experiencing health issues and is no longer on public view.

Alabaster, the 22-year-old albino alligator, has become disinterested in food and has suffered from a skin rash on parts of his body, aquarium spokeswoman Caroline Morris said.

These alligators are "extremely, extremely rare," she said, adding that Alabaster is thought to be one of only 50 albino alligators in the world.

Alabaster's exhibit was closed Thursday and will likely remain closed today, as aquarium staff monitor his condition.

"The vets performed a full physical evaluation yesterday and felt that it was in the best interest to close the exhibit," Morris said. 

Later Friday, the aquarium posted on its Facebook page: "Vet staff have confirmed that Alabaster's body is fighting off an infection, which is causing the red discoloration on his skin. He received a round of antibiotics."

Albino animals usually can't survive in the wild because they don't have the ability to blend into their surroundings. Not only do they not have camouflage, but albinism also can be accompanied by poor eyesight and sensitive skin. 

Morris said Alabaster has always had sensitive skin, and his habitat's lighting and water level have been designed to help. The 8-foot-long alligator arrived at the aquarium in 2009.

Alligators' lifespans can stretch for several decades, and a study by wildlife biologists from Clemson University and the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center near Georgetown found that alligators can live as long as humans, more than 60 years. It noted alligators tagged in 1981 and recaptured in 2016 were exactly the same length they were 35 years before.

How long are South Carolina's biggest gators and where are they lurking?


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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.