The Mistaken Identity of the Olinguito
by Tabitha Boyd, age 14
A new species of mammal, the
Olinguito, was discovered last summer by Smithsonian researchers. It
weighs about two pounds, and is 14 inches long with an equally long
tail, and fully coated with reddish-brown fur.
figure there are thousands of Olinguitos in the forests of Ecuador
and Colombia traveling through the trees at night, which makes them
difficult to see. An Olinguito named Ringerl, lived in the
Smithsonian-run National Zoo in Washington for a year. She was
originally thought to be an Olingo. She was shipped from zoo to zoo
to try to get her to breed with other Olingos, but, of course, she
“It turns out she wasn’t fussy, she wasn’t the same species,”
said Kristofer Helgen, the Smithsonian curator of mammals. Helgen
first thought Olinguitos were different from Olingos when he was
looking at pelts and skeletons in a museum.
we went to the field, we found it the first night. It was almost like
it was waiting for us,” said Roland Kays of the North Carolina
Museum of Natural Sciences. Olingos and Olinguitos are very hard to
tell apart. Olinguitos are smaller and have shorter tails, a round
face, smaller ears and darker, bushier fur.
“It looks kind of like a
fuzzball… kind of like a cross between a teddy bear and house cat,”
discovery is not renaming something, but finding a new species. This
type of find has not happened in the Americas for about 35 years.
[Source: Wisconsin State Journal]