Two female chinchillas live here at the Zoo. Both are from South America, hence their names: Gina from Argentina and Millie from Chile! Born in 1999, Gina is the 10th oldest known chinchilla in an AZA facility.
Listed as vulnerable. Chinchillas have been hunted for human apparel since the early 1990s. Their pelts have been considered particularly valuable and coats have sold for up to $100,000. Hunting continues in remote areas, however, enforcements have been established to protect chinchillas in their natural habitat.
The long-tailed chinchilla is native to the Northern Chilean Andes. Their preferred habitat is barren, rocky, mountainous areas at around 10,000 to 15,000 feet.
Chinchillas are primarily folivorous (feeding on many types of vegetation) especially grass and seeds. They also eat insects and bird eggs occasionally.
The fineness of their coat offers an advantage over predators. If pulled on, fur is released into the eyes and mouth of the predator, giving them enough time to escape.
These animals are nocturnal, and their huge eyes, ears and whiskers help them see, hear and feel in the dark.
While there used to be three species of wild chinchilla, there are now only two due to the extinction of the King Chinchilla.
Chinchillas regularly take dust baths in finely ground volcanic rock. The dust gets into their fur and attaches to the oil and dirt to be extracted.
Chinchillas avoid overheating by routing blood into their thin ears, so a sign of a warm chinchilla is red ears.