Chinchilla (Chinchilla laniger)

You cannot see the chinchilla on exhibit at the Zoo, but you can suggest he visit your Zoo birthday party!

Description: 

Gray in color with small squirrel-like bodies, large mouse-like ears and bushy tails and very plush fur. Chinchillas have the densest fur of any known land mammal (60 hairs per follicle). Adults weigh 1-2 pounds.

 

Habitat: 

Caviomorph rodents. Live in colonies and inhabit crevices in rocks at high altitudes originated in the Andes Mountains of South America.

Range: 

Andes of Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. Today, colonies in the wild remain only in Chile.

Diet: 

Plant leaves, desert grasses, fruits, seeds, small insects. This diet could irritate the digestive system of domestic chinchillas; their diets should be primarily hay-based. Ingestion of seeds or nuts by domesticated chinchillas could result in disease or even death.

Life Span: 

10 - 20 years.

Family Life: 

Nocturnal. Do not bathe in water, but enjoy a good dust bath. This keeps their lush coats clean and healthy and is relaxing. Chinchillas will do what's called a “fur slip” and release a patch of fur if frightened. This is designed to help escape the grasp of a predator. Grows back and does not harm them. Prefer temperatures under 75F; easily overheat in warmer climates.  Gestation period - 111 days.  Babies are called kits and are born fully furred, with eyes open. Maturity is attained around eight months. Females have up to two litters per year. They breed any time of the year. Litters are predominantly two kits. 

Status: 

Endangered. Excessive hunting for fur. Hunting is forbidden and they are protected by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Animals (CITES). Protected wild populations continue to decline. Habitat is threatened by human land alterations in north central Chile.