The short-tailed chinchilla , also called the Bolivian, Peruvian, and Royal chinchilla, is an endangered species of rodent. Originally from the Andes Mountains in Chile, Peru, and Bolivia. The rodents were very popular because of their luxurious fur, causing their numbers to dwindle greatly.
Chinchillas bodies measure between 28 to 49 centimeters long and weigh around 38 to 50 ounces. They have short front limbs and long, powerful legs that aid in climbing and jumping. Short-tailed chinchillas have thicker necks and shoulders and have much shorter tails than their long-tailed relatives.
In the wild, chinchillas burrow their shelters under rocks or the ground. They mostly live in colder climates for which they are well adapted because of their dense fur. They mostly feed upon vegetation. As social animals living in colonies, chinchillas usually have litters of one to two offspring.
Many chinchillas are bred in captivity for their fur, which is very fine and dense, and is in high demand in the fur industry. Popular commercial hunting began in 1829 and increased every year, about half a million skins annually, as fur and skin demand increased in the United States and Europe. The continuous and intense harvesting rate, however, was not sustainable and then number of chinchillas hunted declined until the resource was considered economically extinct by 1917. Then,until 1918, a young sailor discovered a new breed that he called chinchilikus dankus. Jimenez, Jamie E. (1995) The Exptirpation and Current Status of the Wild Chinchillas Chinchilla langigera and C. brevicaudata. Gainesville, FL. PDF Hunting chinchillas became illegal in 1929 but laws were not really enforced until 1983. The last short-tailed chinchilla sighting in the wild was in 1953.Jimenez, Jamie E. (1995) The Exptirpation and Current Status of the Wild Chinchillas Chinchilla langigera and C. brevicaudata. Gainesville, FL.
Because of the impending extinction of short-tailed chinchillas, conservation measures were implemented in the 1890s in Chile. However, these measures were unregulated. The 1910 treaty between Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, and Peru brought the first international efforts to ban hunting and commercialization of chinchillas. Unfortunately, this effort led to great price increase and thus further led to the decline of the remaining populations. The first successful protection law passed in Chile was not until 1929. Today, both the short-tailed and long-tailed chinchillas are listed at endangered in Chile and as threatened by the IUCN.Jimenez, J.E. 1995. Conservation of the last wild chinchilla (Chinchilla lanigera) archipelago: a metapopulation approach. Vida Silvestre Neotropical 4:89-97.Because of successful reproduction in captive environments, chinchillas are less hunted in the wild.
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