Scientists recently made a rare discovery of a new animal species, which they are calling a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear.
The olinguito is a member of the raccoon family and found in the Andes Mountains of South America. Olinguitos only come out at night and don’t stray from trees.
Kristofer Helgen, a scientist who first found the new mammal, described it as a “spectacular new species” and a “beautiful animal” whose discovery he can hardly believe zoologists missed.
“I first realized the animal existed by studying decades-old specimens in museums. That’s what allowed me to realize this animal was something that had never been documented by scientists before,” he said Thursday on AMR. “But I didn’t want to just study it in the museum collection; I wanted to see if we could go out and find the animal in the wild.”
The olinguito is the first carnivore found in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years, but so far scientists have only documented it eating fruit. The Smithsonian announced that the olinguito had been mislabeled for decades and, at one point in the 1960s, an olinguito that had lived in American zoos mystified zookeepers confused about why it wouldn’t breed with its peers.
“We have a long line up coming, and this isn’t even the biggest one that we have in our pockets,” he said, adding that New Guinea is the next destination for the Smithsonian to look for new species.
(Watch the video to learn more about the species):