Chinchilla

 

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Range:  Extreme Western South American Mountains, Andes, and Chile

Natural Diet:  Grasses and grains with the occasional insect.

Diet at Rain Forest: Prepared chinchilla diet supplemented with root crops such as carrots, fresh greens, and the occasional sweet potato.  The chinchillas at RainForest Adventures are kept on a bedding of edible hay, which is often a favorite of the animals to eat for roughage. 

Keepers Notes: Known for their incredibly soft fur, the wild chinchilla was hunted to near extinction through most of its natural range.  To compound the problem, the chinchilla was never really found in large numbers to begin with, since the climate is so harsh in it's native range.

Both in the wild and in captivity the chinchilla needs a bath, it is not the kind of bath you and I think of, it is a dust bath.  Chinchilla fur rarely gets wet in the wild, the arid high elevations that the animal calls home rarely see rain.  Instead of water the animal bathes with the fine, dry dust found on the ground.  A chinchilla will literally roll around in the dust which acts as a magnet to help collect particles of skin oil, dirt and debris that has collected on the extremely fine hairs of the rodent.  Much like a wet dog, the chinchilla will literally shake off the dust that it has just bathed in and by doing so literally shed off the oil and dirt particles.  It is quite a sight to behold to watch an animal roll around in dust and literally get "cleaner" looking. 

The chinchillas at RainForest bathe in a super fine volcanic dust. 

Chinchillas can live up to 20 years in captivity, while the wild chinchilla is thought to live between 10-15 years. 

Size: .  1-2 pounds, approximately the size of a small rabbit.  Males and females are generally the same size with males being slightly larger. 

Status in Wild: Small pockets of wild chinchillas have been found to be existing in extremely remote regions of the Andes Mountain Chain.   Almost hunted to extinction, the wild chinchilla received protection in the early 20th century and has since been able to rebound in remote regions. 

 

The female chinchilla will allow her baby to stay near for protection for nearly three months.

Baby Chinchillas will fit in the palm of your hand.  The average litter of babies born to a female is 2-3. 

 
   

This close-up of a male chinchilla shows the large ears that help the animals keep a sharp lookout for potential predators.   Natural predators of the wild chinchilla include birds of prey as well as cat species endemic to their natural range.

 

 
   
 

 

For biological classification purposes the Chinchillas are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Rodentia, family Chinchillidae.

 

 

RainForest Adventures zoo, Smoky Mountains, Tennessee near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge TN