For years, residents of Brazil’s Atlantic Rain Forest have talked about a legendary albino tapir that roamed in the heart of the forest. Despite various reported sightings and anecdotal encounters, scientists had no concrete evidence of the creature’s existence. That changed when photographer Luciano Candisani ventured into the forest last May and started setting up his cameras in the hopes of capturing a picture of the white tapir.

Raridade! É o primeiro registro de uma anta albina na natureza no Brasil. O animal passou por um dos meus estúdios…

Posted by Luciano Candisani on Monday, March 23, 2015

Candisani first heard about the mysterious creature while working on his documentary about the Votorantim Reserve, a 86,500-acre section of forest that is preserved as one of the richest biomes in the world. Naturally, the photographer wanted to see whether the tales of the albino tapir could be substantiated with proof. After days of reviewing photos taken by the camera trap, Candisani was more than surprised when he came across a perfect shot of the animal.

“My heart skipped a beat when, while reviewing the photos from one night, the white tapir suddenly appeared in one of the frames,” he told National Geographic.

It is believed to be the first photo ever taken of an albino lowland tapir. Also known as the South American or Brazilian tapir, the species is generally a shade of dark brown with whiter coloration near the face. The animal may look like a type of wild pig, but scientists say that the tapir is actually more closely related to the rhinoceros. Along with the heavier Baird’s tapir, the species is the largest land mammal in South America and can weigh up to 700 pounds. As such, the tapir was a popular game animal until recent decades, when habitat loss and poaching drastically reduced the population and put the animal on endangered species lists.

With a large number of predators, young tapir have a hard time surviving to adulthood. This is especially true for albinos—their unique coloring makes them big targets. Despite that, at least one seems to have made it to adulthood. Candisani said that the discovery of the white tapir was just another surprise from the forest.

“Rarity! It is the first record of an albino tapir in nature in brazil. The animal passed by one of my studios lurking in the forest,” Candisani posted on Facebook.

Image from Facebook

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