A Few Words for the Olinguito

Image by Nancy Halliday – Helgen K, Pinto C, Kays R, Helgen L, Tsuchiya M, Quinn A, Wilson D, Maldonado J. (2013). “Taxonomic revision of the olingos (Bassaricyon), with description of a new species, the Olinguito”. CC BY 3.0.

It’s with some trepidation that I shared this news in 2013:  A previously unidentified mammal has entered the known-by-humans universe. Of course the Olinguito would have been fine without us, but we have been desperate for it, having exploited and anthropomorphized every other available creature.

This little beauty was pursued by a curious observer who must be wondering right now what he has wrought for this apparently harmless dweller of the rain forest canopy.

The good news in this development is that for storytellers, there is finally an animal who hasn’t already been employed as a muse. What writer, for example, has not despaired of creating a poem featuring a nightingale, knowing that Keats got there first and ruined it for everyone.

An Ode to the Olinquito

No creature has been more discreet, oh
Undiscovered Olinguito.

Unlike Hippos or Giraffes,
who, mugging for the easy laughs,

were captured with abundant ease
while you hid out in tops of trees.

Alone, alive, aloft, alert
a totem for the introvert,

concealed in clouds of jungle fog,
the world now gawps at you, agog!

Alas, your cover has been blown,
but now at least you know you’re known.

Prepare yourself to be festooned,
bedazzled, storied and cartooned.

Oh Olinguito, please stay fleet
and pray that you’re not good to eat.

An Olinquito walks into a bar and hops up on to the stool next to you. After a few drinks he reveals he and his kind have been in hiding for thousands of years, but now they’re out. You’d like to take his picture, but out of respect, you don’t. Good thing you don’t – he is beside himself with worry about deforestation and paparazzi from the National Geographic. Finally, he turns to you and says,

“What would you do if you were me?”

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