Chinchilla lanigera

About the Chinchilla

There are two different species of chinchilla. The Chinchilla chinchilla and the Chinchilla lanigera. (The chinchilla in the Petaluma Wildlife Museum is the Chinchilla lanigera.)

Chinchillas are related to guinea pigs (cavies) and the porcupine.

Physical Apperance:
Chinchillas are known for their dense soft fur. ( The reason for the chinchilla's dense fur is because there is about 60 hairs growing out of one hair follicle.) The chinchilla's fur helps them keep warm in the cold mountain regions (insulation). Chinchilla's feet and legs are adapted for climbing on rocks. They have strong hind legs that help them run and jump quickly. Wild chinchillas are a grey color with a white underside. Domestic chinchillas come in other color mutations beside grey. (Some examples are mosaic, dark tan ebony, and beige.) Chinchillas also have a bushy tail.

The females are usually larger than the males. The body length of the chinchilla is about 10-14 inches or in centimeters it would be about 24-25 centimeters. Chinchillas in general weigh about 2-3 pounds. The chinchilla's tail is about 5-6 inches. The tail is about 1/3 the body size of the chinchilla.

Life span:
The average life span of the chinchilla is about 8-10 years in the wild. Domestically they can live up to 20 years.

Diet and Behavior

Chinchillas are herbivores. In the wild they mainly eat seeds and grasses. In the wild they eat a variety of different vegetation.

In the wild chinchillas live in social groups also known also a herd. These herds can contain around 100 individual chinchillas. Chinchillas are mostly a nocturnal animal. This means they are mostly active during dawn, dusk, and during the night and then rest and sleep during the day. During the day chinchillas sleep and rest in holes in the ground or crevices amoung rocks. Chinchillas use a variety of vocalizations to express them selves. For example when they are threatened they make a very aggressive bark. Some examples of predators to them are felines, canines, snakes, skunks, and birds of prey.

Chinchilla Pictures

More on the chinchilla

Population, Conservation, and Habitat

The estimate on population of chinchillas is unknown. Although in 1996 only 42 herds could be found in the wild. The population of the chinchilla has declined 80% in the last ten years.

Conservation Status:
The Chinchilla chinchilla is considered critically endangered while the Chinchilla lanigera is vulnerable.

Laws in place to help protect the chinchilla:

There was a law passed about trapping chinchillas. Despite this law being passed there are still people who continue to hunt and trap wild chinchillas for their fur, these people are known as chinchilleros. Chinchilleros still trap and hunt chinchillas because of the high demand for chinchilla fur. Moreover because people still hunt and trap chinchillas a permit is required to import and export chinchillas. An important thing people should know about is that chinchillas have only two litters a years and each litter consists of 1-2 kits (baby chinchillas). Humans are hunting and trapping chinchillas faster than they can reproduce.

What the Public should do to get the chinchilla off the endangered animals list:

  1. To help the wild chinchillas you can educate your friends, family and also neighbors about chinchillas and there situation, if we spread the word more people can help.
  2. One way you can help is donating money to a chinchilla conservation. The people that work for the conservation then buy land to build chinchilla reserves.


Chinchillas in the Andes Mountains at an elevation of 3,000-5,000 meters. The Andes Mountains are found in South America near Peru. The Andes Mountains is considered a alpine biome which ressembles the biomes tundra and taiga.

Domestic Chinchillas

Domestic chinchillas should always have food and fresh water available to them. A stoppered water small animal water bottle in a great way to provide water to your chinchilla. Chinchillas can eat commercial chinchilla food in pellet form found in pet stores. This food is designed to the correct amount of nutrients for chinchillas and it is also designed for the chinchilla to easily eat it. An important part of a chinchilla's diet is hay. (It also helps wearing down the chinchilla's ever growing teeth.) A good choice of hay is timothy or alfalfa. A good way to provide the chinchilla with hay is using a hay rack because it keeps hay clean and dry. Something important that chinchillas need is a dust bath. In the wild where chinchillas live they do not bath in water they bath in volcanic ash. So you will need to provide your chinchilla with a commercial chinchilla dusting powder of some sort and a bin for them to bath in at least twice a week.