The former range included the Andes of southern Peru, Bolivia, northwestern Argentina and northern Chile. Today the species is known only from a handful of individuals captured in 2001. However, in 2011, camera traps in Nevado Tres Cruces National Park (Atacama region, northern Chile) recorded two new locations of short-tailed chinchilla colonies.
The species is on Appendix I of CITES, and has been protected by law in Chile since 1929, although, as mentioned above, this law has proved difficult to enforce. Currently, almost all chinchilla fur comes from farmed animals, and recent improvements in the quality of captive chinchilla fur has reduced pressure on the remaining wild populations. However, it is also likely that the commercial breeding activities have stimulated the demand for live wild chinchillas to improve the genetic variability of captive stocks. Indeed, several of the eleven wild short-tailed chinchillas captured in 2001 were transferred to a breeding programme in which they were used to boost the genetic diversity of the captive population. Although there is no specific conservation programme in place for the short-tailed chinchilla, the US-based conservation organisation Save the Wild Chinchillas is focusing on raising awareness of the two chinchilla species, promoting research, and conserving wild populations of the long-tailed chinchilla.
As part of a development plan for research of the biodiversity of protected areas of the Atacama Region, administered by the National Forestry Corporation of Chile (CONAF), researchers from the University of Tarapaca in Chile began a detailed survey of flora and fauna in one of Atacama's national parks, Nevado Tres Cruces, in 2011. One of the scientists placed motion-sensitive cameras in a ravine in a ‘Priority Site’, and this picked up photos of a new short-tailed chinchilla colony. A second group was detected farther north in Santa Rosa lagoon, where traces of chinchilla hair had previously been found. The findings will be used to help develop long-term conservation programs in Chile.
Further surveys are needed to establish the location of wild populations of this species. There are unconfirmed reports from the 1970s of the short-tailed chinchilla in the Lauca National Park in Chile and Bolivia from the Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve for Andean Fauna. As camera trapping use increases and since the discovery of the chinchilla in two new locations in northern Chile, conservation plans should be adapted to take these into account.
Jaime is a Chilean native with broad interests in conservation ecology and ecological studies of Chilean vertebrates
Maria studies the short-tailed chinchilla, and other middle and large sized mammals
Valledares, P., Espinosa, M., Torres, M., Diaz, E., Zeller, N., De La Riva, J., Grimberg, M., & Spotorno, A. 2012. New Record of Chinchilla chinchilla (Rodentia, Chinchillidae) from the Atacama Region, Chile: implications for conservation. Mastozoologia Neotropical 19(1): 173-178
D'elia, G. & Ojeda, R. 2008. Chinchilla chinchilla. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 06 July 2012.
Deane, A. and Riger, P. 2005. Wild chinchilla conservation and education. Animal Keepers’ Forum 32(3): 116-121.
Jiménez, J. E. Jan 2006. (pers comm.).
Jiménez, J. E. 1996. The extirpation and current status of wild chinchillas Chinchilla lanigera and C. brevicaudata. Biological Conservation 77:1-6.
Pearson, O. 1996. Chinchilla brevicaudata. In: IUCN 2006. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 09 August 2006.
Save the Wild Chinchillas
Distribution map based on data provided by the IUCN Global Mammal Assessment.
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