The Olinguito – Discovery of a New Species of Mammal

and my small part in the story

by Steve Blain

I know this isn’t ‘Mammal frontiers’ but I thought this would be of interest.

Mark Gurney and I photographed this ‘Olingo’ while birding in the Tandayapa Valley in Ecuador in July 2005. At the time we didn’t think much of it, apart from it being a nice encounter with a rarely seen mammal on the west slopes of the Andes. In the two years I lived in Ecuador working as a bird guide, I only saw this one Olingo. Seeing any mammals was a rare thing indeed, especially on the heavily populated western slopes. The discovery, with Mark’s photo of the same individual is reported here.

Our ‘Olingo’, but actually an ‘Olinguito’ – the first new species of carnivore to be identified in the Western hemisphere in 35 years! Tandayapa Valley, Ecuador, July 2005. Digiscoped with a Contax U4R, Swarovski ATS 80 HD, 20-60x zoom.

However, a few months later Mark put an image of our ‘Olingo’ online. It wasn’t long before he received an email from the Roland Kays saying that it appeared to be of an undescribed species they were working on – Amazing!  They’d hoped the research would be complete by the end of 2006.

That was the end of the trail and Mark hadn’t heard a thing since. That was until last week. It was only when Mark popped his head around my office door asking me to look online that I knew of all the excitement surrounding the mammal we had seen back in 2005. So the ‘Olingo’ we had seen whilst birding at Tandayapa wasn’t an Olingo at all, it was an Olinguito!

Olinguito, Tandayapa Valley, Ecuador, July 2005. Digiscoped with a Contax U4R, Swarovski ATS 80 HD, 20-60x zoom.

I was very grateful to be in to digiscoping and to play my small part in its discovery. If it hadn’t been for my Swaro scope, and my little Contax U4R then I probably wouldn’t have ever got these images – maybe some of the best ever taken of this new-to-science species. I even managed a short video clip if it looking at us then scooting up a tree.

A couple more images can be found here.

Olinguito, Tandayapa Valley, Ecuador, July 2005. Digiscoped with a Contax U4R, Swarovski ATS 80 HD, 20-60x zoom.

SO_ATX_STX_birding_728x90_ani_en

One thought on “The Olinguito – Discovery of a New Species of Mammal

  1. Pingback: More New Mammals to be Described? | Birding Frontiers

Leave a Reply