Last Modified

June 6, 2022 by Umair Shahid

Photo by Tanya Kusova

The chinchillas are small little furry animals. Their adorable looks and easy-going nature makes them popular pets. The chinchillas have a natural habitat in the Andes mountains of Chile. Many people farm chinchillas on a large scale for their fur and adoption. However, many people kill chinchillas in their natural habitat to make products from their coats.

This excessive killing and trapping of chinchillas are reducing their population. But are chinchillas endangered species? Yes, the chinchillas are at serious risk of extinction. According to research, people kill 200,000 chinchillas for their fur and meat products every year.  

Are Chinchillas Endangered Species  

Species of chinchillas:

There are mainly two species of chinchillas, the long-tailed chinchillas, and the short-tailed chinchillas. If you go out to a pet store to buy a chinchilla, you will hardly find long-tailed chinchillas.

The long-tailed chinchillas are rodents with thick, long fur, large eyes, and bushy tails. They live in the mountains of Chile at an elevation of 10,000 to 16000 feet. These chinchillas are famous for their fur, and people love to keep them as pets because of their adorable looks. They have very dense fur. According to research, one hair follicle of a chinchilla has over 60 fur threads.  

The chinchillas are highly social animals, and they live in herds of above 100 chinchillas in rocks and crevices under the mountains. Short-tailed chinchillas are popular as pets nowadays. They have an even more life span in captivity due to low threats of hunting and killing.

The short-tailed chinchillas have thicker bodies and short stature. Their tail is less furry, and their overall body size is smaller than the long-tailed chinchillas.

These species also became endangered because of human activities. They were highly demandable pets in England, America, and Germany. This demand led to overhunting and endangerment of chinchillas in their wild habitat.

Why chinchillas are endangered?

The thick, soft fur of chinchillas is very tactile. They don’t like being picked up. These little rodents have a short life span in wild because of their hunting and predation. But they can live up to 20 years as quiet pets hiding in a cage. There are many reasons for chinchillas being endangered over the past few decades. I’ll discuss some of the major reasons.

 Chinchillas as pets:

The popularity of chinchillas as household pets increased in 1700 in Germany and England. Later, people started hunting for sale officially in 1828.

The chinchillas are adorable pets. They were especially popular as pets for deaf and older people. They are easy to manage and need little handling. Therefore, people started massive hunting of chinchillas as the demand increased worldwide in the 19th century.

At first, only the long-tailed chinchillas became endangered in their wild habitat. Soon the high demands led to the endangerment of short-tailed chinchillas as well. The researchers started breeding chinchillas artificially, but this breeding did not fulfill the requirements.

 Destruction of habitat:

Another important reason for chinchillas being endangered is the destruction of their natural habitat in the mountains of Chile.

The chinchillas are rodents that are related to guinea pigs and porcupines. These tiny rodents live in extensive underground burrows, establishing colonies.

However, human interference has destroyed their natural ecosystem as well. The mining and engineers working in search of a natural reserve destroy the habit of chinchillas as well. They destroy the burrows during these invasive procedures.

Killing for fur:

They have killed the chinchillas for centuries for their dense fur. The chinchillas have the softest fur in the kingdom of Animalia. According to our research, the merchants kill about 10,000 chinchillas to make one coat from their fur.

These coats were common during the 19th century. Some people shave their fur to make products. However, this does not help them survive because the chinchillas are very temperature sensitive. In a cold climate, they need their fur to survive the winters.   

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killing for meat:

The chinchillas feed on seeds and plants. However, the people in Latin America eat the chinchillas and other rodents of this family. This little rodent is an Argentinian delicacy. The local farmers started hunting these rodents many centuries ago.

They started using them as food to protect their crops and prevent the burrow holes in their farmlands. Later, people began hunting chinchillas as food delicacies.

Killing during mining:

The miners kill the chinchillas during the mining process in the mountains of Chile. The chinchillas die in their burrows, where they live in colonies of hundreds of rodents in one place.

The mines in Chile are rich in gold, and miners constantly work to extract these treasures. Mostly the short-tailed chinchillas are common in this region. Many projects are working to move chinchillas to another site safely before using these mountains for gold extraction.

Conservation status:

This soft and dense fur makes them highly likable for fur products. The year 1900 was the time when chinchillas hunting could make fur products. Their fur products were highly-priced and used all around Europe.

However, soon the chinchilla killing led to the endangerment of these species. Soon in 1929, the European conservation authorities realized the threat to chinchillas in their natural habitat.

They banned chinchilla hunting worldwide in 1929. There are only two chinchillas species left in the mountains of Chile.

According to the conservation authorities, there are only 10,000 chinchillas left in the mountains of Chile. The long-tailed chinchillas are at greater risk than the short-tailed chinchillas.

It is the reason long-tailed chinchillas are not available as pets anymore. Many countries are about to ban keeping chinchillas as house pets.

There are strict laws on hunting chinchillas in Chile now. There is still some hope to preserve this beautiful rodent specie and conserve the ecosystem before it gets too late.  

Frequently Asked Question:

  1. Is it humane to farm chinchillas for their fur?

It is better to farm chinchillas for their fur instead of killing the chinchillas present in their natural habitat. However, some farms keep chinchillas in very poor conditions. This practice is inhumane and local authorities must keep an eye on the proper management and raising of chinchillas on farms.  

  • How can I aid chinchilla conservation?

You can support the chinchillas’ conservation programs in different ways. You can provide financial assistance or become a volunteer to protect chinchillas in their natural habitat. You can also protect and conserve these rodent species by raising awareness in the local public. You can educate the breeders or pet store owners to take better care of these poor rodents.  

Conclusion:

The chinchillas are loveable rodents and adorable pets. Are chinchillas endangered species? Yes, they are. Now you know why chinchillas are endangered and what we must do to conserve the chinchillas in their natural habitat.

The conservation authorities working to protect the leftover chinchilla species are hopeful to save the remaining 10,000 chinchillas in the mountains of Chile. What we can do is avoid using coats made up of chinchilla fur.   

Author 2

I am a proud veterinarian from Lahore, Pakistan. A passionate animal lover who pursued her passion for animal care as a career.
My eagerness to learn and my love for animals grew stronger even during my teenage days. Having a lovely pet, a German Shepherd, in my home allowed me to bond with animals in the best way.
This bonding with my pet provided me with a firm foundation to research and preach about the best animal care methods.

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