Okay, enough messing about – the olinguito is a small omnivorous mammal that lives in the Andean cloud forests of Ecuador and Columbia. For about 100 years, the specimens in museums were thought to be examples of olingo (the -ito part of olinguito means ‘small’, as they’re slightly smaller than the olingo): there was even one specimen in a zoo, although keepers were perplexed as to why it didn’t mate with other olingos. Now they know why: the olinguito is a completely different species. Quite a diverse one, too – it’s believed that there are about 4 sub-species, and the creatures are geographically dispersed and reasonably abundant.
They’re currently not under threat, although research suggests that around 42% of their potential habitat is already gone. This is due to clearance for crops, both legal and illegal, logging, and clearance for housing. Scientists are evaluating their conservation status right now, and trying to find the extent of their spread and their genetic diversity.
Whatever the case, it’s always nice to end the week with a positive story, and the discovery of an apparently robust species is very positive.
If you wish to read the academic article, you’ll find it here.
[Featured image: Olinguito. (AP photo by Mark Gurney)]