Warning, extreme cuteness!!!
Scientists have discovered for the first time in 35 years, a new carnivorous mammal in the Americas and it's sort of cute and cuddly looking, too. It's highly unlikely that it's trainable, but we can always hope that it's manners mirror it's looks.
The Olinguito (pronounced "oh-lin-GHEE-toe"), which Smithsonian scientists describe as a "mix of house cat and a teddy bear," isn't technically either of the two. It is actually part of the family Procyonidae, which includes raccoons, olingos, and other similar mammals.
The Olinguito is a native of the highly elevated forested areas in Colombia and Ecuador. It typically weighs around 2 pounds, measures around 14 inches long and is orange brown in color and it typically moves around at night.
Kristofer Helgen, a curator at the National Museum of Natural History, and also the leader of the team involved in making this discovery was quoted as saying;
"The cloud forests of the Andes are a world unto themselves, filled with many species found nowhere else, many of them threatened or endangered. We hope that the olinguito can serve as an ambassador species for the cloud forests of Ecuador and Colombia, to bring the world's attention to these critical habitats."
In a case of mistaken identity, the Olinguito was initially thought to be the Olingo. It was been pretty much in plain view of scientists all along and has even toured as such in the some U.S zoos a few decades ago. The Smithsonian team had originally planned to fully classify the Olingo species and its many sub-categories/variants, but everything has changed after an accidental find at a Chicago museum.
The discovery has since kicked off extensive research into the matter, leading the group into various museums to look at specimens and field expeditions in the western Andes. Developments came quickly after zoologist Miguel Pinto captured footage of the Olinguito.
"This is the first step," Helgen said. "Proving that a species exists and giving it a name is where everything starts. This is a beautiful animal, but we know so little about it. How many countries does it live in? What else can we learn about its behavior? What do we need to do to ensure its conservation?". "The discovery of the olinguito shows us that the world is not yet completely explored, its most basic secrets not yet revealed," said Helgen. "If new carnivores can still be found, what other surprises await us?"
Being able to keep the Olinguito around for the next century may likely be difficult, as the Smithsonian team estimates that 42 percent of its habitat has vanished due to urban expansion and aggressive farming. "The discovery of the olinguito shows us that the world is not yet completely explored, its most basic secrets not yet revealed," said Helgen. "If new carnivores can still be found, what other surprises await us?"
The olinguito is officially known as the Bassaricyon neblina, neblina meaning "Fog" in Spanish. The Smithsonian team published this new discovery in the August 15th edition of the scientific journal "ZooKeys".