Lots of animals today are at risk of going extinct. This ranges from the biggest animals like the blue whale to the smallest like the sea turtle.
Today, we’re going to find out if chinchillas have managed to find themselves on this list.
Are chinchillas endangered? Yes. Chinchillas have now been designated as endangered species on IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
They’ve been endangered for the last fifteen years. In fact, they face imminent danger and may even become extinct within a decade. That’s right.
There’s a distinct possibility that chinchillas may not be with us anymore in the next ten years.
The obvious question, of course, is why?
Summary of today’s article:
- Why are chinchillas endangered?
- Why are chinchillas still endangered today?
- Okay, what about pet chinchillas
- What can you do to help?
- How do I keep my pet chinchilla
The chinchillas in pet shops and in your home aren’t at risk of extinction. It’s wild chinchillas who live in their natural habitat in the mountains who are at risk of disappearing forever.
Reason 1; Human Activity
Wild chinchilla population has been threatened by extinction for a long time, and this is due to human activity. The original population of the species was almost wiped off because of poaching, habitat destruction, hunting, strip mining activities and deforestation.
Reason 2; Their Fur
One of the reasons why it’s difficult for chinchillas to live in peace is because they have the thickest fur of any animal on land. They have about 60 hairs in one follicle.
This means they have about 20,000 hairs per square cm, which is about ten times what the average human being has.
In fact, the hair of the chinchilla is so thick that fleas and ticks have a tough time penetrating it. And even if they managed to, they would simply suffocate because of lack of air.
That’s exactly the reason why human beings have been hunting chinchillas for a long time. Who doesn’t want to wear the thickest fur during winter?
Coats that are made from chinchilla fur are one of the most luxurious coats on earth. They are extremely expensive, and they give poachers additional motivation to go after chinchillas and hunt them for their fur.
Fur coats are one of the reasons why chinchillas are endangered in the first place. But now that chinchillas are disappearing all over the place, what will happen to these coats? Will they disappear too?
Well, no. Since the beginning of the century, the fur industry has made a hard pivot.
Now, almost all fur used in coats is gotten from captive chinchillas that live in farms. So, as of today, the fur industry doesn’t play a large role in the shrinking chinchilla population. Which is kind of ironic if you really think of it.
Now, this isn’t to say that some poachers do not continue to hunt chinchillas. Because they do.
However, these efforts aren’t driven by the need of the industry. They are driven by socioeconomic conditions.
So if you want to buy chinchillas, buy coats, you can. You’re not contributing to the endangerment of the species by doing that.
Reason 3; Their Meat
But that’s not the only reason why chinchillas are endangered today. They are also quite sought after because of their meat. It is rich in monounsaturated fats, and it’s a delicacy in many cultures.
In the 1920s, legislation was passed that protected the chinchillas from a lot of these activities, however, it only slowed these activities down. It didn’t stop them totally.
You may think that it’s easy to conserve wild animals. And ordinarily, you would be right.
One need only to pass laws stopping poachers from poaching, and all would be right in the world.
Sadly, that’s not the reality of things. Legal measures and protections rarely ever extend past the courts and the papers they are written on.
Especially when it concerns rural areas. Over the years, the wild population of chinchillas have continued to dwindle despite these legal protections.
And as the socioeconomic situation of the areas surrounding chinchillas gets worse, so do the population of the chin.
The IUCN which is the International Union for Conservation of Nature has even said that chinchillas are more likely than ever to become extinct. They fear that the wild chinchilla population may be too small to naturally reproduce.
And this is even if the legal measures put in place actually do any protecting. To make things even worse, foxes now hunt down chinchillas more than ever in the wild.
We don’t know if this trend will continue, but we do know that it cannot be great news for chinchillas.
If you have a pet chinchilla, you should be happy. You’re one of the few people who are actively trying to help these endangered species.
You’re trying to stop them from getting extinct, and that’s a good thing. You’re helping, not hurting.
All pet chinchillas sold at the pet store are entirely captive-bred, and they are not captured from the wild. In fact, if you live in America and you own a pet chinchilla, your chinchilla is a descendant from the original batch of 11 chinchillas transported to America in 1923.
These chinchillas were introduced to America by a man named Mathias F. Chapman when he got a special license to import them.
It seems quite impossible that those first eleven chinchillas could spawn all the captive chinchillas in America today. But it happened regardless.
Since captive chinchillas cannot be released into the wild, there’s nothing the captive chinchilla population can do to help their furry family in the wild. One way you could even further help wild chinchillas is by spreading the word about their imminent extinction.
Do them a favor and try to support charities and initiatives that want to help chinchilla conservation efforts.
Is It Humane For Chinchillas To Be Farmed For Their Fur?
This is a very complex question. And the first reason why it’s complex is that human beings haven’t yet as a whole decided whether to extend basic rights to animals.
However, we do know that some of the farms that breed these chinchillas do them under very terrible conditions. And you don’t have to extend rights to animals before you have sympathy for them.
Sadly, there’s not much you can do about it.
Besides, even if it were not humane, there’s precious little one person can do. For example, international trade on chinchillas has existed since the 16th century at least.
To stop it right now would take serious political will— political will that the ruling class do not have.
If you love your chinchilla, you’d probably be heartbroken over the fact that wild chinchillas may become extinct very soon. But it’s not enough just to feel sad over it.
There are some things you can do to help them.
Today, local authorities are finding new ways to aid conservation efforts. Some of these efforts include providing more areas where chinchillas can settle and reproduce, far away from the dangers of human activity. The rodents in these areas are carefully monitored and helped to adjust to their new homes.
This will help revive the world chinchilla population and stop them from going extinct.
There are several charities augmenting these efforts with donations and campaigns, and one of them is the Save The Wild Chinchillas, a non-profit organization.
The organization helps conservation efforts by helping people learn about the excesses of hunting and poaching. This, they hope, will discourage hunters and poachers and will help save wild chinchilla’s lives.
You can help by being a volunteer with the organization, or you could even donate.
If you have a pet chinchilla, here’s some extra advice you should keep in mind. First, make sure you keep your chinchilla in a wire mesh cage that has a solid floor.
The cage should be well ventilated because chinchillas do not sweat, and as such, they require an environment with controlled temperature. Temperatures should be kept about 60 to 70 F (16 to 21 C).
If you have two chinchillas, try to separate them. Chinchillas don’t love living in the same place.
It’s also important for you to note that the stomach of chinchillas is very sensitive, so you can’t just get them anything to eat. You could get them food pellets that are available at the food store, and they could also eat hay, dried fruits, carrots and vegetables.
Since the chinchilla is herbivorous, meals like this are just straight right up its aisle.
Chinchillas are an endangered species. Despite the fact that they can be found in many pet stores, the numbers of wild chinchillas are actually reducing by the day.
In fact, some projections say that chinchillas will be extinct by the end of the decade.
Legal protections have been put in place to safeguard them, but without extensive enforcement, they can only do so much. To help save them, chinchilla lovers will have to band together to donate and volunteer their resources to the rescue of these furry little creatures.