Short-tailed Chinchillas are famous for their beautiful bluish-grey fur, which is extremely soft and dense and is considered to be one of the most valuable in the world.
This species has been harvested for its fur and meat since early human arrival. However, the species was driven to the brink of extinction by commercial exploitation, which began in the early nineteenth century.
There are only two species within the Chinchilla genus, and only three genera in the family Chinchillidae. Both species of chinchilla were trapped, but the short-tailed Chinchilla was especially sought after because of its ‘higher quality’ fur and larger size.
Formerly abundant in the Andes, the species is found in a small fringe area of the Atacama Desert on the Bolivia/Chile border. However, due to the use of domesticated Chinchilla to meet the demand for its fur, it is thought that hunting pressure has been lessened – and the population may be recovering in certain areas, two new populations in Atacama, northern Chile have been recorded by camera traps. Other threats this species face are mining, agriculture and grazing leading to a lack of habitat.
- Order: Rodentia
- Family: Chinchillidae
- Population: Unknown
- Trend: decreasing
- Size: 22.5-38cm
- Weight: 400-800g
Found throughout two national parks in the Andes, on the border of Chile and Bolivia.
Habitat and Ecology
They are found in relatively barren areas of the Andes Mountains at elevations of 3,000 to 5,000m above sea level. They shelter in crevices and holes among the rocks, and are most active at night, dawn and dusk. They are thought to live in colonies ranging in size from a few individuals to more than a hundred. Their diet consists of any available vegetation.