Big news erupted in 2013 when a cute, furry animal, the olinguito, was revealed to the world. It was the first species discovered in 35 years from the raccoon family. The olingo, a relative of the olinguito, triggered the search for the olinguito. They live in the cloud forests of the Andes in South America. Kristofer Helgen, a scientist, discovered these fuzzy furballs.
Prior to his discovery, people brought olingo pelts for him and the other scientists to study. One pelt caught his eye. Not brown and soft like olingo fur, it was orange and fuzzy. Its tail was longer, too. Plus, the skull was different. Kristofer got goose bumps. He was excited!!!
Had he discovered a new species?
It would take 10 more years of research to find out. The pelt was labeled #66753. He took DNA from pelt #66753 and took DNA from an olingo. It was different!! He was ecstatic. He called the new animal olinguito which means little olingo because it was smaller and looked like an olingo.
But, were there any olinguitos left in the wild?
Before telling the world that he had discovered a new species, he heard a story. Ringerl, a female olingo, was brought to the zoo hoping she would find an olingo mate. She refused to mate with any. They brought her to 4 different zoos, and she still wouldn’t. He took the DNA of her and it matched to pelt #66753’s DNA. But, that was 30 years ago. Could these animals still be living?
Finally, they found a living olinguito!!!
The locals had rarely seen them, but when they did they called it “Night Monkey”. It was confirmed the olinguito was a new species.
Fun Facts About the Olinguito
- Olinguitos build nests to sleep in.
- Baby olinguitos stay in the nest for a month.
- Once the babies are 2 months, they ride on their mothers back till they can climb and walk.
- A mother olinguito usually has one baby at a time. They are mostly born in March and February.
- Their long tail, which is a little longer than them, can work as a blanket to curl up at night in and hang.
- Baby olinguitos are about the size of a kitten and look adorable!!
If you would like to learn more about olinguitos, you may enjoy these books!
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