The official story is that an ape specialist, Jordi Sabater Pi, found the animal in 1966 in Ikunde, in the then Spanish colony of Spanish Guinea, modern-day Equatorial Guinea. The only albino gorilla known to man, he was captured outside Nko, in the Equatorial forest of Nko, near Rio Campo, in the Rio Muni region, on October 1, 1966, by Benito Mañé, an ethnic Fang farmer, who had killed the rest of his group (all charcoal black in color) in order to obtain this unusual albino specimen. During the massacre, his mother was shot by Mañé whilst she tore a banana stem apart in his banana plantation. The small creature was found clinging to his mother’s neck, his head buried deep in her black fur. Benito kept him at his own home for four days and then transported him to Bata, where he was purchased by Sabater Pi, who worked for the Barcelona Zoo’s Ikunde Center, in Spanish Guinea, and paid 10,500 pesetas for the gorilla. A National Geographic-funded study of gorillas in the region was underway at the time of Snowflake’s discovery.
Snowflake was a Western Lowland Gorilla. He spent most of his life at the Barcelona Zoo in the Parc de la Ciutadella. He was known worldwide, mentioned in tourist guides and put on postcards, becoming the unofficial mascot for the city.
At first, the Barcelona Zoo was not aware just how unique a specimen Snowflake was. They sent a message to Sabater Pi saying, “Please send more white gorillas.” The zoo later hoped to produce an entire family group of white gorillas through selective breeding.
He was thought to be between 38 and 40 years old; the average lifespan of a gorilla in the wild is 25. Since 2001, he had suffered from an unusual form of skin cancer, almost certainly related to his albinism condition, known as oculocutaneous albinism type 1 or OCA1. In September 2003, it was publicly announced that he was dying. Thousands visited the zoo to say goodbye before he was euthanized in November 2003.