The more you learn about the origin of chinchillas, the easier it will be to care for yours properly. These animals have a fascinating overall history. 

If you are thinking about getting a chinchilla for your next pet, this information can be very useful in a number of ways.

The Chinchilla’s Natural Habitat

There are two different Chinchilla species, both of which can be traced back to South America, specifically the Andes Mountains. This territory spans a number of countries, including southern Peru, Chile, northwestern Argentina, and Bolivia. These animals are typically found at a minimum elevation of 14,000 feet. 

When they are not foraging for food, they spend much of their time between rocks as well as inside burrows. These dark areas provide them with cover from predators, increasing their chances of survival. 

How Did Chinchillas Arrive in America

The story of how chinchillas made it to North America is actually pretty interesting. A mining engineer named M.F. Chapman bought one of these animals from a native Chilean person while working in 1918. Fascinated by the animal, Chapman decided to go looking for more with a trapping party consisting of several other people.

Over the course of three years, Chapman and his associated captured eleven chinchillas. A few years later in 1923, these animals were finally taken to California.

wild chinchilla

Evolutionary Skills

Chinchillas have developed a number of useful evolutionary skills over the years. These animals are extremely skilled jumpers and climbers. These traits give them a significant advantage when it comes to evading predators in the wild. They are able to escape from even the fastest land animals in the region with relative ease.

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The average chinchilla can jump up to five feet vertically, which is impressive to say the least. You could certainly understand how this might be useful when trying to get away from a hungry predator. The sheer speed of these animals is another attribute that helps keep these animals alive.

What do Chinchillas Eat in the Wild?

The natural diet of a wild chinchilla consists of nuts, seeds, insects (and larvae), leaves, and even twigs. These animal are foragers, spending a large portion of their time looking for and storing food each day. These animals are highly adaptable, and can therefore usually find food no matter where they are without much difficulty.

Captive chinchillas need to be fed hay as well as special pellets that are specifically formulated to match their nutritional requirements. The sensitive digestive system of these animals means that it is very important to be careful about what you feed them. Even a small intestinal blockage or digestive issue can be fatal.

It is okay to give your chinchilla the occasional piece of fruit, vegetable, or even insect. This can help supplement your pet’s diet so it gets all the nutrients it needs to remain healthy.

Breeding

The very first attempts at domesticated breeding were carried out in Chile during the 1920s. A number of farms that were dedicated specifically to breeding these animals were established. It didn’t take very long to create the offspring, which were sent to numerous countries all over the world.

The colors of modern domesticated chinchillas are a direct result of selective breeding. There are numerous mutations, offering a variety of attractive patterns.

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chinchilla on a tree

Activity

Chinchillas are crepuscular creatures, which mean they are most active during the early morning and late evening hours. In the wild, they stay hidden in burrows or between rocks during the daytime. These animals are extremely energetic, so they need a lot of regular stimulation when kept as a pet.

If you are planning on getting a chinchilla, you’ll need to make sure that they have a number of toys in their cage. They should also have an exercise wheel. A lot of people choose to let their chinchillas roam around outside a bit. You’ll want to be careful about doing this, as your furry friend could run away.

It is also crucial that you get an appropriate size cage for your chinchilla. They need to have enough room to move around freely without feeling overly confined. This will help keep your pet healthy and happy over the long term.

Are Chinchillas Endangered?

Chinchillas were officially put on the list of endangered species in 2019. The population of this animal has come under threat due to being hunted for their furs. Their numbers are improving though, and they are not classified as being critically endangered as of 2020.

The fur of these animals has long been sought after due to a high demand for coats and various other clothing items. They have been hunted for this reason almost a century now. Fortunately, some preservations have been established in their natural habitats to protect them.

It is estimated that the chinchilla population has dropped by around 35% over the last two decades. The widespread reproduction of these animals is also helping to get their numbers back up. Hunting chinchillas is no longer allowed, as they are an endangered species. There is, however, still a problem with illegal poaching.

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Conclusion

  • Chinchillas come from South America, specifically the Andes Mountains.
  • These animals are almost always naturally found at an elevation of at least 14,000 feet.
  • During the daytime, wild chinchillas will hide away between rocks or in burrows. When it starts getting dark outside, they come out to forage for food.
  • A mining engineer discovered these animals in South America back in 1918.
  • The first chinchilla was brought to America in 1923.
  • Domesticated breeding efforts began in Chile in the 1920s. Since then, multiple mutations have been created, resulting in a variety of color patterns.
  • Chinchillas posses a number of useful evolutionary gifts, including remarkable jumping and climbing abilities.
  • The natural diet of wild chinchillas consists of nuts, seeds, insects, leaves, and even twigs.
  • These animals are officially classified as engendered, though they are not critically endangered anymore due to their steadily improving numbers.
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