A rare albino grey whale calf that was recently spotted swimming with its mother has been found dead on a beach.
The calf, called Costalito de Sal by locals, was found on a Pacific Ocean beach near the town of Guerrero Negro in the Mulege Municipality of the north-western Mexican state of Baja California Sur.
Its body was close to the famous Ojo de Liebre Lagoon, an important breeding ground for the grey whale (Eschrichtius robustus), where it was first spotted when it was only a few days old.
A video of the white calf, taken by members of Mexico's government conservation agency, the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas, melted the hearts of wildlife lovers.
They will be devastated to learn of its death. The body of the young whale has been left on the beach in accordance with the area's status as a protected area.
Costalito de Sal, which means small sack of salt, was the second albino grey whale spotted in the area in recent years following the sighting of another albino calf in the 2008 to 2009 breeding season.
Albinism among whales, which is known as ‘galon de leche’ (gallon of milk), is caused by the mutation of genes affecting the pigmentation of the skin and also the eyes.
Albino whales, along with all albino animals, suffer with problems with their sight and are often more prone to diseases, as well as being more visible to predators.
Ojo de Liebre Lagoonis a coastal lagoon which lies about halfway between the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula and the US border, opening into the Pacific Ocean.
It is an important habitat for the reproduction and wintering of the gray whale, as well as other marine mammals including the harbour seal, California sea lion, northern elephant seal and blue whale.