Given the copious amounts of animals mankind has pushed, kicked, shoved, overfished, and poached to the cusp of extinction, is it really such awesome news that scientists announced the discovery of a new mammal species just this morning?
The olinguito—think a Teddy Bear meets a house cat—had been hiding in the cloud forests of Ecuador and Colombia for, you know, forever. The new guy on the animal block is the first carnivorous mammal to be identified in the Americas in more than 30 years.
Scientists had a hunch that the species existed from remains preserved in museums, but because the nocturnal “fuzzball” lives high in the trees, it proved to be a tough critter to officially ID.
Turns out, these scientists were looking in the wrong place. An olinguito was actually living right in the Smithsonian Zoo. Reports the Associated Press:
"It's been kind of hiding in plain sight for a long time" despite its extraordinary beauty, said Kristofer Helgen, the Smithsonian's curator of mammals. The zoo's little critter, named Ringerl, was mistaken for a sister species, the olingo. Ringerl was shipped from zoo to zoo from 1967 to 1976: Louisville, Ky., Tucson, Ariz., Salt Lake City, Washington and New York City to try to get it to breed with other olingos. It wouldn't. "It turns out she wasn't fussy," Helgen said. "She wasn't the right species."
A few words to the wise about us humans, olinguito. For time immemorial you’ve been doing your own thing, parting late into the forest canopy night, living largely stress-free. But now mankind, the take-what-we-want alpha male of everything, not only knows what you are but where you live? How long before the world’s zoos—enamored with your cat looks (FYI: we LOVE cats)—send wranglers into your environs, capture you or your friends, and ship you guys halfway around the world just in time for the grand opening of the facility’s new rainforest exhibit? Or, worse, how long before poachers want in on your pelts, fueled by some cockamamie belief that your fur cures impotence, hangovers, or cancer? Welcome to our world, olinguito—chances are it won’t be your oyster.