BOGOTA, Aug. 15 (Xinhua) -- U.S. scientists at the Smithsonian Institute (SI) Thursday announced the discovery of a new species of carnivorous mammal in Colombia and Ecuador.
It took the scientists 10 years to identify the new species, the olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina), marking the first such discovery in South America in 35 years, the Washington D.C.-based institute said.
The olinguito, which weighs about one kilogram with big eyes and brown-reddish hair, looks like a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear and belongs to the raccoon family.
The SI said the olinguito has been the victim of "mistaken identity" for some 100 years, despite having been shown at some museums and even zoos.
Kristofen Helgen, curator of mammals at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, said the solitary and nocturnal olinguito lives in the Andean regions and cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador between 5,000 and 9,000 feet above sea level.
The mammal is now threatened by urban and agriculture development, with 42 percent of its habitat occupied.
Helgen added identifying the olinguito is just the first step in the research of the species, and scientists still know little about its behavior, distribution in other regions and how to protect it.
The discovery of the olinguito comes as a surprise and proves "the world is not yet completely explored, its most basic secrets not yet revealed, and more species could be waiting to be discovered in the Andean cloud forests," said Helgen.
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