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Originally collected in Ecuador in 1923, the definitive specimen of the olinguito was originally misidentified by researchers it as its relative, the kinkajou. The Museum’s specimen, Mammal #66753 spent some time on the Museum’s shelves—again misidentified—as an olingo. It wasn’t until 2013, more than 90 years after it was collected, that it was finally identified as representing a new, separate species. Researchers are still learning about this tree-dwelling mammal, but here are a few things to note about the newest member of Carnivora.
1) The olinguito’s scientific name is Bassaricyon neblina. The researchers chose “neblina” (Spanish for “mist” or “fog”) in reference to the animals’ habitat in the cloud forest of the Andes mountains.
2) Olinguitos are members of the Procyonidae family. This family of animals is found only in the New World and also includes raccoons, coatis, kinkajous, and olingos.
3) While olinguitos are members of the order Carnivora, they’re not exactly vicious meat-eaters. Their diet consists mostly of fruits, though they also enjoy raiding hummingbird feeders for a sweet snack.
4) Since the olinguito was described in 2013, residents near its habitat in Ecuador have sent researchers many videos and photographs of the creatures, helping scientists learn more about their diet, breeding, and other habits. In 2014, these efforts gave researchers their first look at an olinguito nest—perched high in the forest canopy—and a baby olinguito."
5) An olinguito was exhibited in zoos around the United States (including the Bronx Zoo, and the National Zoo) in the 1970s as an olingo. The animal was frequently moved among different zoos because she wouldn’t breed with the olingos.
You can learn more about the discovery of the olinguito in this episode of Shelf Life.