Chinchilla (Chinchillidae Lanigera)



Chinchillas are crepuscular rodents, slightly larger and more robust than ground squirrels, native to the Andes Mountains in South America. They live in colonies at high altitudes. Historically, they lived in the Andes of Bolivia, Chile, and Peru, but today colonies in the wild remain only in Peru and Chile.   Their name literally means “little chincha”.

Chinchillas live in burrows or crevices in rocks. They are agile jumpers and can jump up to 6 feet.   They   have a variety of defensive tactics, including   spraying urine and releasing fur if bitten.   In nature, they live in social groups that resemble colonies, that are properly called herds.   They have ultra-soft fur, which can come in many colors (white, ebony, beige, standard grey, sapphire, violet and many combinations of these) but in nature, they are standard grey.   Chinchillas have a lifespan of 10-20 years and survive on plant leaves, desert grasses, fruits, seeds and small insects.   Their teeth grow continuously throughout their lifetime so it’s important that they wear them down on wood.

The animals instinctively clean their fur by taking dust baths.   In the wild, the dust is formed from fine, ground volcanic rocks. The dust gets into their fur and absorbs oil and dirt. Chinchillas do not bathe in water because the dense fur prevents air-drying, retaining moisture close to the skin, which can cause fungus growth or fur rot.

Chinchilla females can breed any time of the year. Their gestation period is 111 days, longer than most rodents. Due to this long pregnancy, chinchillas babies (called “kits“) are born fully furred and with eyes open. Litters are usually small in number, predominantly two.

Their fur is popular in the fur trade due to its extremely soft feel, which is caused by the sprouting of 60 hairs from each hair follicle, on average.   Today it is illegal to hunt wild chinchillas, the wild animals are now on the verge of becoming extinct because of continued illegal hunting. Domesticated chinchillas are still bred for this use.


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