Unfortunately, none of us will probably be lucky enough to see a wild chinchilla in our life. They’re quite rare to find and finding a wild chinchilla in its native habitat would require a lot of climbing that most of us probably wouldn’t be willing to do. Wild chinchillas live mostly in the Andes Mountains in South America, even their name is from South American origin.
Only two wild chinchilla species exist today and the third, the Giant Chinchilla, has become extinct due to human activities and over poaching. Chinchilla lanigera and Chinchilla brevicaudata are the only two species remaining of wild chinchillas, and they are both quite similar. Chinchilla breicaudata is likely to be facing extinction very soon as well due to the same reasons.
The reason that wild chinchillas are so rare is due to the chinchilla’s fur. Before they were domesticated, chinchilla were hunted in mass numbers, which is the reason for their scarce existence today. To make one fur chinchilla coat it takes over one hundred wild chinchillas. Chinchillas have extremely soft and thick fur, and their fur is so thick and long that when predators attempt to take a bite out of them, they usually leave with nothing but fur in their mouth.
Chinchillas have such thick furs that they don’t bathe with water but with dust as the water doesn’t penetrate too deep into their fur. Chinchillas take a couple of chinchilla dust baths weekly but never will they bathe with water, which chinchilla owners should know. Through chinchilla breeding, wild chinchillas are uniformly grey even though domesticated chinchillas can come in many colors.
Crevices and cracks in rock terrain at high altitudes are where wild chinchillas live. They can survive at heights of 15,000 feet. Humans cannot survive in any zone that is 14,000 feet above sea level due to how thin the air is. Wild chinchillas are burrowing animals, and they usually live in groups, called herds.
Wild chinchillas are herbivores that eat seeds and grass, and drink very little water and avoid foods with high water content which will cause bloating, and sometimes even death. When available, wild chinchillas will even eat flowers and fruits. Due to the fact that their diet doesn’t contain enough cellulose, their digestive systems work very slowly and because of this, if won’t digest most of its food, not getting many nutrients. To compensate, chinchillas will eat their feces which contain those nutrients.
Wild Chinchilla Population Grows Slowly
On average, wild chinchillas will have quite a long life span, though not as much as most domesticated chinchillas. When predation isn’t the case, a wild chinchilla’s lifespan is about 10 years whereas some pet chinchillas can live to see their years in the 20s. Chinchillas “breed like rabbits”, yet the population doesn’t grow too quickly because of how long the gestation period is, lasting around 111 days. Which reduces the amount of offspring she will have to about 4 to 9 kits per year even though they can have more at times. Right when a wild chinchilla is born, it will start to walk about with open eyes.
Wild chinchillas are now protected in the countries where they originate, such as Peru, Chile and Bolivia. Let’s hope that this will enable their population to flourish once again, or if not, maybe it will at the very least keep them from becoming extinct. Save The Wild Chinchillas is a non-profit organization that is striving to help reform the wild chinchilla population.