The olinguito is the smallest species in the Procyonidae* family, which are animals found solely in the New World, which also includes raccoons, coatis, olingos, and kinkajous. In 2013 they were described as a new species. They have dense woolly fur that is thicker and more colorful (reddish brown or orange) than the olingos, its closest relatives. This animal looks like a mix between a teddy bear and a cat, and for more 100 years has been mistakenly identified. This finding is important for science because the species has occurred again in the western hemisphere after 35 years.
The olinguito lives in the northern Andes of Ecuador and western Colombia in humid montane rainforests.
Habits and lifestyle
Little is known about the social behavior in the olinguito, because it was only recently discovered and researchers are still learning about this tree-dwelling mammal. They are solitary, mostly nocturnal and live in trees. They are skillful jumpers and are able to jump from tree to tree up in the forest canopy.
Diet and nutrition
Olinguitos are carnivorous, but mainly eat fruit, and also eat nectar and some insects.
No information is available at present regarding the mating system and reproductive behavior of olinguitos. It is only known that females raise just a single offspring at a time.
In the future the olinguito may be under threat as a result of urbanization and deforestation. It has been estimated that 42% of historic suitable olinguito habitat has already been converted to urban areas or agriculture and a further 21% remained in natural though largely unforested conditions. Since its natural habitat is at higher elevations, the olinguito’s "cloud forest habitat" clearly needs protection for the probability of survival for this species.
The IUCN Red List and other sources do not provide the olinguito total population size. According to the HISTORY resource, the olinguito population numbers in the tens of thousands. Currently this species is classified as Near Threatened (NT) and its numbers today are decreasing.
Fun facts for kids
- ‘Bassaricyon neblina’ is this animal’s scientific name. The researchers chose the Spanish for “mist” or “fog” - “neblina”, in reference to this species’ habitat in cloud forests of the Andes Mountains.
- This species is the first carnivore discovered in the last 365 years in the western hemisphere. This research was over a period of 10 years.
- Since being described in 2013, residents who live near its Ecuadorean habitat have provided researchers with many photographs and videos of the creatures, helping the scientists learn more about the animal’s diet, breeding, and further habits. In 2014, researchers were thus able to have their first look at a nest of this species — high up in the forest canopy—with a baby olinguito in it.