Chinchillas are rodents that are native to the Andes Mountains of northern Chile. Often kept as pets, chinchillas are also prized for their luxuriously soft fur and were nearly driven to extinction because of the demand.
Chinchillas are classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN despite being a common pet species. The numbers of wild chinchillas have been reduced by more than 90% in the last 15 years. The remaining populations are still declining but are now protected. There is still competition with grazing livestock and habitat destruction for mining and fuel wood. Historically, large numbers were hunted for their fur or for the pet trade.
Chinchillas are omnivores; they eat both plants and meat. Primarily, they eat grass and seeds, but they also eat insects and bird eggs when they get the chance. To eat, they hold their food in their front paws and nibble on it.
Like all chinchillas, the soles of their feet aren't furry and they have fleshy foot pads called pallipes. Their forefeet have four easily maneuverable toes, which they use for grasping. Both sets of feet have weak claws. Their well-developed hind limbs are longer than their forelimbs. Members of this family often jump bipedally, but mostly they move on all four limbs.
Protective legislation has been in place since 1929, but was not properly enforced until 1983. Populations continue to decline (over 90 percent in the past 15 years). Although they are protected in the wild they continue to be hunted for their fur in some remote areas. They are bred commercially, but efforts to reintroduce them into the wild have not been successful. Chinchillas are also plagued by extreme habitat loss and habitat quality reduction.
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Their fur is usually pearl, bluish or brownish gray except on their stomachs where the fur is yellowish-white. Their coat is very soft and dense, and each hair usually has a black tip. This thick fur keeps them warm in the high elevations of the Andes.
Classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
A medium-size rodent with famously thick and beautiful fur, chinchillas are social and matriarchal. Long-tailed chinchillas are critically endangered and native to the Andes mountain range.
However, according to the Chinchilla Chronicles website, an American mining engineer named Mathias F. Chapman got special permission from the Chilean government to bring chinchillas to the United States in 1923. Nearly every pet chinchilla in the United States today is a direct descendant of 11 chinchillas that Chapman brought to the country.
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living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.
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Chinchillas live in colonies consisting of a few individuals to hundreds. Female chinchillas, the dominant sex, are very aggressive toward one another and toward males during estrus. Despite this aggressiveness, serious fights rarely happen. Chinchillas express threats through growling, chattering their teeth and urinating.
Chinchillas are typically 9 to 15 inches (23 to 38 centimeters) long, but the tail can add another 3 to 6 inches (8 to 15 cm) to their length. They generally weigh 1.1 to 1.8 lbs. (0.5 to 0.8 kilograms).
Chinchillas are related to guinea pigs and porcupines. With short forelimbs and long, muscular hind legs, chinchillas resemble rabbits, but their ears are much shorter and rounder. They have large, black eyes and bushy tails. They have four toes on each foot, and the thin claws on each toe are surrounded by stiff bristles.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
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the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
The Michigan Humane Society recommends keeping domestic chinchillas in a wire mesh cage with a solid floor. The cage should be well ventilated and kept dry and cool in temperatures from 60 to 70 F (16 to 21 C). Chinchillas do not get along well when caged together, and should be kept in individual cages.
Chinchillas are crepuscular and nocturnal, which means they are very active at dawn or dusk and sleep during the day. They make their homes by burrowing in underground tunnels or nestling in rock crevasses. They are very social and live in colonies that consist of hundreds of chinchillas.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
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Chinchillas usually form stable bonds for breeding and will have two litters per year. The offspring are well developed at birth, with fur already grown and eyes open. They are weaned within eight weeks. They are sexually mature at eight months old.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
Chinchillas eat mainly grasses and seeds with some other plant material. They will also eat insects and eggs if available.
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
Climate in the chinchillas' habitat is rather harsh, with summer temperatures climbing during the day to up to 30°C in the shade and dropping to 7°C at night (or below the freezing point in winter).
Inhabits barren, arid areas of mountains at elevations of 3,000-5,000 meters (2).
Chinchilla fur was originally mottled yellow-gray in the wild, according to The Merck Veterinary Manual. Through selective breeding, however, other colors have become common, including silver, yellow-gray, bluish-gray, white, beige and black. Each hair ends in a black tip, no matter what color the chinchillas are.
Three different types of C. lanigera are commonly recognized: la plata, costina, and raton.
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Chinchillas are thought to be smarter than rabbits and can be taught to play with humans. They do not make good pets for small children, however, because chinchillas are hyperactive and high-strung.
At the Smithsonian's National Zoo, the chinchillas receive specially made chinchilla pellets, alfalfa and raisins.
This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.
The Chilean chinchilla is endangered, with the second-highest conservation priority among Chilean mammals.
The long-tailed chinchilla is a rodent species. They have very thick fur with up to 60 hairs growing from a single follicle! Their fur ranges in colour from greys to light browns, with their fronts lighter than their backs. The tip of each hair is usually black. Their hind legs are powerful, enabling them to jump and run effectively in their rocky habitat.
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