WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Smithsonian has announced a new carnivorous mammal, the olinguito (pronounced oh-lin-GHEE-toe). It’s the first new species of a carnivore found in the Western Hemisphere in the last 35 years.
Found in the northern Andes Mountains in Ecuador and Colombia, the olinguito is the smallest member of the raccoon family, weighing in around two pounds. The orange-reddish brown animal is between 13-17 inches in length. The animal eats mainly fruit, but will occasionally eat insects and nectar. The animals are solitary, live in trees and are mostly nocturnal.
For years, people thought the olinguito was actually the olingo, which is a larger member of the raccoon family. No one realized it was a new species until further investigation and DNA testing.
“In some ways, this animal was hiding in plain sight,” said zoologist Roland Kays of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, who helped discover the olinguito said.