The newest carnivorous animal discovered in the America’s, the Olinguito is restricted to a few patches of remnant highland cloud forests in the Andes of Colombia. While not yet considered rare or endangered, the Olinguito’s small range within a highly vulnerable ecosystem, the South American cloud forests, leaves it at risk in the future. Fortunately, numbers right now are considered to be relatively high, and one of our most recent discoveries should stick around for some more time.
Of course, the main question here is how this rather noticeable animal was able to survive un-noticed for such a long time… The species is rather elusive, highly nocturnal, and lives in dense habitats, but I suspect that the main reason is this: the Olingo. This species, Bassaricyon neblina, is very closely related to its larger, much more widespread, and better-known relative, the Olingo. Because a brief glimpse at night makes it tough to differentiate similar species, perhaps this is the reason why this adorable carnivore stayed unknown for so long.
On rather more of a tangent, this discovery is a true testament to the incredible biodiversity of this part of the world. The last carnivore discovered in the Americas, the Colombian Weasel (found 35 years ago), was found in riparian habitats in Andean mountain forests in Colombia and Ecuador. Let’s preserve this fascinating place so we can find out what else is hiding.