Meet the Olinguito, the Cutest New Mammal You'll See Today!

Photo: Mark Gurney

Ain't he cute? Meet the olinguito, the first new species of carnivore to be identified in the Western hemisphere in 35 years. It's a small raccoon-like animal approximately 2 and a half feet long and weighs about two pounds. It has woolly orange-brown fur and a cute teddy bear-like face to boot.

The cute mammal was discovered by a team of scientists from the Smithsonian Institution in the cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador. The search for the olingo was started when zoologist Kristofer Helgen uncovered bones and animal skins in the storage room of Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History.

"When I looked at the skulls I didn't recognize the anatomy," Helgen told BBC News, "It was different to any similar animal I'd seen, and right away I thought it could be a species new to science."

But it turns out that scientist shouldn't have had to look far. Turns out, the olinguito has been known to man all along: they've been displayed in museums and zoos for the past few decades. In fact, there's one living in the The Smithsonian-run National Zoo in Washington.

"It's been kind of hiding in plain sight for a long time," Helgen said. It was a case of mistaken identity with its closely related cousin the olingos.

Love cute animals? View more at Lifestyles of the Cute and Cuddly blog

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