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What in the World is an Olinguito?

August 15, 2013

Introducing the Olinguito

By Leslie Spellman :: 11:41 AM

When the Smithsonian announced earlier today that it had identified a new species of mammal, many people were left scratching their heads. What exactly is this new creature, called the Olinguito?

Turns out this furry guy, shown above, is something of a cross between a traditional house cat and a teddy bear, and belongs to the same family of animals as raccoons.

The Olinguito is the first carnivore to be discovered in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years. Clad in wooly fur, usually orange-brown colored, the creature lives in the high forests of Ecuador and Colombia.

While the Smithsonian’s announcement marks a new name for the creature, it hasn’t gone unnoticed this whole time. The animal has been the subject of identification errors for at least 100 years. It has been regularly spotted in the wild, and has even been introduced into some zoos – just under a wrong name.

Smithsonian curators call the findings,”‘an incredibly rare discovery in the 21st Century.”

“The discovery of the olinguito shows us that the world is not yet completely explored, its most basic secrets not yet revealed,” explained Dr. Kristofer Helgen, the institution’s main mammal curator.

It is a member of the Procyonidae family, and weighs about two pounds. It is most active during evening and night-time hours, rarely comes out of the trees it lives in, and only has one offspring at a time.