Nature Sketchbook: New “Olinguito” Species Close-Up

CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE: Notes and sketches of a newly described mammal in the cloud forests of Ecuador and Colombia, the “olinguito” (Bassaricyon neblina). (Illustration by Andrew Howley)

Drawn from the same skulls and skins that led NG Explorer Kristofer Helgen to realize he’d found an unknown species of mammal, these sketches aim to reveal the science and the beauty of the newly described “olinguito.”

Knowing that Kris and the specimens were nearby at the Smithsonian Institution, after the big announcement last week I asked to pay him a visit and give the olinguito the up-close artistic treatment it missed out on by not being noticed during the golden age of naturalists’ sketchbooks a century or more ago.

Cooped up for several hours in a windowless room filled with the off-gassing preservatives that keep the hundred-year-old skins looking as fluffy and colorful as ever, I examined and sketched the remains of olinguitos, olingos, kinkajous, and even a good old fashioned North American raccoon. Kris pointed out features of note and answered my questions about details completely invisible in the few photos of olinguitos in the wild.

I hope these sketches and notes help reveal and explain some of those details, and share the excitement of getting up close to this newly recognized member of the animal family.

[Click the image above to expand and explore the sketches.]

NEXT: See Photos, Learn More About the Olinguito

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Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. In 2018 he became Communications Director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish. Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of nationalgeographic.com for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010. He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history. You can follow him on Twitter @anderhowl and on Instagram @andrewjhowley.