Monday, January 17, 2011

Short-tailed Chinchilla

(Image Source)
Phylum : Chordata
Class : Mammalia
Order : Rodentia
Family : Chinchillidae
Genus : Chinchilla 
Species : chinchilla

Length : 12-20in (30-50cm)
Weight : 400-800g

IUCN Status : Critically Endangered

You might just recognize today's animal, because they've become quite popular as pets in recent years. Did you know though, that both Short-Tailed and Long-Tailed Chinchillas are critically endangered in the wild? In the past they were hunted extensively for their pelts and for the pet trade, but now captive breeding has helped to alleviate some of the stress on the wild populations. Hunting was also made illegal during the early 20th century. Unfortunately, major damage has been done, with the species being extinct in certain areas.

Short-Tailed Chinchillas are medium sized rodents native to the Andes Mountains of South America. They live in colonies that can number up to a hundred individuals, and are most active at dusk and dawn. Short-Tailed Chinchillas are herbivores and will feed off of whatever vegetation is available to them.

Short-Tailed Chinchillas can live as long as ten years in the wild, and they reach sexual maturity at around 8 months. Females have a remarkably long gestation period for a small mammal, and are pregnant for about 110 days. Typically 2-3 young are born at a time, and two litters are produced each year.

Many captive Chinchillas are believed to be a cross of the two wild species, and reintroduction into the wild has been unsuccessful thus far. Short-Tailed Chinchillas were highly prized because of their larger size and extremely dense fur. 50-100 fine hairs can grow from each of their hair follicles, as opposed to just one in humans. Chinchillas are still bred for the fur industry, but it is illegal to take pelts from wild animals.


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