The Daily Treat: When a Raccoon Meets a Teddy Bear – Meet the Newest Member of the Animal Kingdom
It’s the first new species discovered in 35 years
We know the last thing you want to hold is that black and white fiend called a raccoon that rummages through your trash at night. But what if we told you there’s a cuter, cuddlier version of it?
Well, start spreading your arms.
Researchers have discovered a new species of mammal called the olinguito, a teddy bear-faced creature that’s most similar to a dog, cat or bear, reports the Associated Press. Though new species are regularly discovered, this kind of find, a mammal, is far rarer and hasn’t happened in about 35 years.
The raccoon-sized animals travel by jumping from tree to tree in the forests of Ecuador and Colombia at night – but that’s not the reason why they haven’t been identified earlier.
An olinguito named Ringerl, who has been living in the Smithsonian-run Washington, D.C., National Zoo for a year, was mistaken for a sister species called the olingo.
“It’s been kind of hiding in plain sight for a long time,” Kristofer Helgen, the Smithsonian’s curator of mammals, tells the AP.
After Ringerl refused to mate with other olingos, Helgen and his team departed on a 2006 research mission to South America, where he found more of the fruit-eating, 2-lb. critters.
“When we went to the field, we found it in the very first night,” said Roland Kays, the study co-author from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. “It was almost like it was waiting for us.”