Leafy background

Unusual sighting at the Neblina Reserve, Ecuador

Researchers carrying out baseline research at Rainforest Concern’s Neblina Reserve in the cloud forest of north west Ecuador made an exciting sighting last month. Their nighttime investigations revealed the presence of an olinguito – a mammal unknown to science until 2013.

Olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina) are found only in remote mountainous regions of tropical montane rainforests (or cloud forests) on the northern slopes of the Colombian and Ecuadorian Andes. They are nocturnal and spend their lives in the treetops where they are often obscured by a layer of cloud and fog.

Bassaricyon neblina 7

Since they are still so new to science, very little is known about this rare and elusive mammal, but scientists agree that that the olinguito population is declining due to loss of habitat. The IUCN Red List state that ‘42% of potential olinguito habitat in Colombia and Ecuador has already been converted to agriculture or urban environments. Remaining habitat is highly fragmented and faces increasing threats from farming, grazing, deforestation for drug cultivation, logging, and climate change.’

The IUCN go onto say that the survival of the species depends on the preservation of the remaining cloud forest fragments and the restoration of degraded habitat to maintain connectivity between populations. ‘Preserving cloud forests in this region would benefit the long-term conservation of the olinguito’.

Rainforest Concern’s Neblina Reserve aims to provide ecological corridor between areas of existing cloud forest. The presence of the olinguito in the Neblina Reserve serves to emphasise the importance of this cloud forest reserve and its role in providing habitat for rare and endemic species.