The Washington Post has reported that scientists at the Smithsonian say they have discovered a new animal which looks like a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear and is found in the forests of Columbia and Ecuador.
The small, bushy-tailed, rust-colored furry mammal they named the olinguito was a rare find — the first new carnivore species found in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years. According to zoologist Roland Kays, director of the Biodiversity and Earth Observation Lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences:
“It sort of bounced around the trees almost like a monkey, doing its thing, eating the figs… in some ways, this animal was hiding in plain sight.”
The story of this DISCOVERED SPECIES goes back a decade ago to efforts by Smithsonian zoologist Kristofer M. Helgen to count the number of species of the olingo, a member of the raccoon family. At the Field Museum of Chicago, what he found in a drawer stopped him dead in his tracks:
“I knew at that point it was a new species, but I also knew I needed to be sure.”
Its pelts and bones were found stashed away in dusty museum drawers, either mislabeled or not labeled at all… one can’t help but to wonder what other extraordinary zoological mysteries may dwell in the basement of some major metropolitan museum or even a small University, just waiting to be uncovered by a curious young grad student.