Raccoon relative discovered, first new carnivore in 35 years

Today, researchers announced the discovery of a new species—a reddish-brown animal with a long tail weighing about two pounds. Hailed as a “major discovery,” this interesting mammal is the first carnivore uncovered in the Western Hemisphere in the past 35 years.

It’s been described as “a mini-raccoon with a teddy bear face that is so cute it’s hard to resist.”

So how was this face overlooked for so long? According to the Washington Post, one of these creatures lived in the National Zoo in Washington for a year without anyone realizing its true identity. It was thought to be a member of its sister species, the olingo.

Kristofer Helgen, the curator of mammals at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, made the distinction years ago while looking at specimens in a museum. Helgen and his research team were able to find the animal and study its behavior during a trip they made to South America, the species native continent.

Finding new carnivores in this century is said to be incredibly rare, and for those of us with a great appreciation for the natural world, it’s also incredibly exciting.

“The olinguito shows us that the world is not yet completely explored, its most basic secrets not yet revealed,” Kristofer Helgen, the curator of mammals at the Smithsonian’s National Museum  of Natural History, said in a statement. “If new carnivores can still be found, what other surprises await us?”

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(Photos via the National Post)