Chinchillas are rodents that live in high altitudes of the Andes Mountains in Chile. They are known for their dense, velvety fur. There are two species, the long-tailed Chinchilla and the short-tailed Chinchilla.
Scientific & Common Names
Species: C. chinchilla (Short-tailed Chinchilla), C. lanigera (Long-tailed Chinchilla)
Long-tailed Chinchilla – Chilean, Coastal, Common or Lesser Chinchilla
Short-tailed Chinchilla – Bolivian, Peruvian, or Royal Chinchilla
Chinchillas are rodents with gray fur that is extremely thick. It has the densest fur coat of all land mammals; and only the sea otter, a marine mammal, has denser.
There are two species of chinchilla, of which the long-tailed variety is the more well known. It has a bushy tail, large mouse-like ears, and strong legs for jumping and climbing the mountainous terrain it calls home.
Chinchillas can breed year round. The gestation period for the female is about 120 days. Chinchillas mature at around 8 months of age.
Chinchillas are nocturnal, meaning they typically sleep during the daytime and explore at night in search of food, which includes fruits, seeds, plants and insects. They live in large groups called herds, which can number up to 100 individuals. They dwell in burrows or large crevices in their rocky habitat. They are great climbers and jumpers, able to leap as far as six feet. Chinchillas must be wary of predators including birds, skunks, cats and snakes.
Chinchillas are named after the Chincha people, a Native American tribe living in the Andes who wore the velvety fur of these rodents. Chinchillas used to live in Bolivia, Peru, and Argentina, but can now be found only in Chile.
They are popular as pets, and many captive breeding programs exist. The domestic chinchilla is derived from the long-tailed species. In the wild, however, both species are endangered.
The only other living animals in the Chinchillidae family are the viscachas, which resemble rabbits with their long, erect ears, though they are not closely related to them.
Chinchillas only inhabit a fraction of their previous range, and are listed as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Animals. They were severely overhunted for their incredibl dense, velvety fur, but with the advent of domestic chinchillas, there is less demand for wild chinchilla fur.