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Searching for chinchillas in Bolivia

By on March 15, 2011 in Uncategorized, EDGE Fellows, Mammals

My name is Maria Eugenia and I come from Bolivia. I decided to study biology because I love wildlife and I want to support its conservation and management. I graduated from the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés in La Paz – Bolivia, and then went to Mexico to study for a Master of Science. The subject of my thesis was effects of hurricanes Emily and Wilma on the population of pygmy raccoons, Procyon pygmaeus, in Cozumel Island, Mexico.

A long time ago, my father and my grand father told me stories about chinchillas in the Andean Mountain, this is the reason that pushed me to start a conservation project on this particular species species.

The main goals of my work on the Short-tailed chinchilla (Chincilla chinchilla) are to identify the past and future distribution of the species and to hopefully find remnant populations in Bolivia.

Bolivian Altiplano (highlands)

Although the last sighting of a wild chinchilla has been recorded a large number of locals living in the Bolivian Altiplano (highlands), together with some researchers, are still confident that the species didn’t go extinct (mainly because of over-hunting) and that it may be present in the country today.

I embarked on several trips in the Bolivian Altiplano where I conducted a series of interviews with the elder members of remote communities. Their good memory enabled me to identify areas where the short-tailed chinchilla could be found in the past. All this was made possible with the collaboration of many people such as Geovana Mendieta, Cynthia Durán, Roberto Hereida, Cirilo Copa and park rangerss working in the Sajama and Eduardo AvaroaNational Park.

interviews with elders

interviews with elders 2

The key finding of the survey was that local people interviewed mostly remember the short-tailed chinchilla for their economic value and for foreign expeditions made to capture the animal. Unfortunately, the hypothesis of the presence of chinchilla in Bolivia, tested through camera traps and fingerprint record, has not been confirmed yet.

setting camera traps

My last trip last January was to the Salt Flats of Uyuni where I didn’t find any traces of the species. However, we saw other wildlife such as mouse, bird and vicuñas.

bird caught on camera

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