Other Free Encyclopedias » Animal Life Resource » Mammals » Viscachas and Chinchillas: Chinchillidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Viscachas, Chinchillas And People, Conservation Status, Long-tailed Chinchilla (chinchilla Lanigera): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET

Viscachas and Chinchillas: Chinchillidae - Species Account

tailed mammals accessed lanigera

Geographic range: Also known as the Chilean chinchilla, it lives only in the mountainous regions of northern Chile.

Mother and baby long-tailed chinchillas may greet one another by rubbing snouts. (Jane Burton/Bruce Coleman Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Habitat: This species lives in semiarid, rocky, and sparsely vegetated areas between 9,840 and 16,400 feet (3,000 to 5,000 feet).

Diet: The long-tailed chinchilla eats mainly grass and seeds of any available plants, but sometime eats insects and bird eggs as well.

Behavior and reproduction: Biologists report that female long-tailed chinchillas are generally monogamous, meaning that they have only one mate. They carry their young for an average of 111 days, usually delivering two pups. Most will have two litters a year. Mating seasons are from May to November in the Southern Hemisphere and from November to May in the Northern Hemisphere.

This species is active mostly at dusk and at night. Females are the dominant species in the colonies, which can reach up to 300 individuals, and show high levels of aggression with much vocalization. Long-tailed chinchillas are famous for their feats of agility as they leap about their rocky homes. Captive-bred chinchillas are very shy and bond easily with their owners.

Long-tailed chinchillas and people: Even among mammals prized by humans for their pelts, the long-tailed chinchilla is especially sought after. Coats made of their fur have sold for more than $100,000. Many of the animals are cross-bred with other species in captivity for this purpose.

Conservation status: The IUCN has listed this species as Vulnerable. With the last sighting of the animal in 1953, it is virtually unknown in the wild. Before laws had been put in place to protect the species, seven million pelts (individual furs) had been exported to buyers in other countries. They are also threatened by habitat destruction— specifically the burning and harvesting of the algarobilla shrub. ∎



Burton, J. The Collins Guide to the Rare Mammals of the World. Lexington, MA: The Stephen Greene Press, 1987.

Nowak, Ronald M. "Chinchillas." In Walker's Mammals of the World Online 5.1. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/walkers_mammals_of_the_world/rodentia (accessed on June 23, 2004).

Redford, K. H. Mammals of the Neotropics: The Southern Cone. Vol. 2. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.


Jimenez, J. "The Extirpation and Current Status of Wild Chinchillas, Chinchilla lanigera and C. brevicaudata." Biological Conservation 77 (1995): 1–6.

Web sites:

"Long-tailed Chinchilla; Chinchilla lanigera." ARKive Images of Life on Earth. http://www.arkive.org (accessed on June 23, 2004).

"Chinchilla lanigera." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu (accessed on June 23, 2004).

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