Pokemon are not real. At least not in the sense that combat-ready animals are roaming around in the wilderness that can be trapped inside of a magic ball. But a rare brushtail possum from Australia with a genetic mutation is pretty close to the real Pikachu. Or at least as close as we're ever likely to get in real life.
A story that first circulated in November 2018 revealed the rare possum to the world. Called Pikachu because of the color of its fur, as well as its big ears, the Boronia Veterinary Clinic And Animal Hospital shared an image of the creature, explaining that a rare genetic mutation is responsible for making the animal look the way it does. The clinic said the following in its original post.
"We recently had a very special possum brought in to the clinic. She's a rare golden variety of the Common Brushtail Possum. The golden colour occurs due to a mutation which causes a low level of the pigment melanin which gives them their normal colour. They are so rare in the wild as although their bright colour makes them look special to us, they also stand out to predators! Luckily for this baby brushtail she's gone to carers to be raised and then will end up in a wildlife sanctuary so she can live a long happy life."
So Pikachu is not necessarily one-of-a-kind, but close to it. The mutation, itself, is rare. But humans come across them so infrequently because the bright color makes them a target for predators. It is believed Pikachu fell off of its mother's back at some point. Dr Kath Handasyde from Melbourne University's School of Biosciences had this to say about the creature at the time of its discovery.
"One of the issues with unusual colours, particularly if they are pale, is this a nocturnal animal and if they are pale they are obvious to predators like an owl."
Pikachu is one of the most recognizable figures from the Pokemon franchise. The adorable yet powerful creature was the companion of Ash Ketchum in the original animated series. The character also headlined the first live-action movie in the franchise with 2019's Detective Pikachu. Given Pikachu's prominence in pop culture, the comparisons made to this particular, rare breed of possum are easy to understand.
Pokemon started life, somewhat humbly, as a pair of video games in the 90s. It has since blossomed to become a multi-billion dollar, multimedia franchise. The trading card game exploded in the late 90s in the U.S., with animated shows, movies, merchandise and more video games to follow. Pokemon remains extremely popular around the world to this day. It ranks as one of the highest-grossing media franchises in history, with Pikachu right at the center of the action. Be sure to check out the possum Pikachu for yourself from the Boronia Veterinary Clinic's Facebook page.