Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Two furry residents come to the Zoo
On your next visit to the Zoo’s
education building, look for two furry mammals — short-tailed chinchillas. The
short-tailed chinchilla is about 15 to 17 inches in length, including the tail.
The female is typically larger than the male. This chinchilla has soft, thick
fur with about 60 fine hairs growing from each follicle. The coat varies from pearl
to light gray. The tail itself is about 5 to 6 inches long and is covered in
coarse hair. The chinchilla’s thick fur helps to protect the animal from the
cold temperatures of its native habitat of mountain shrubs and grasslands in
the Andes mountain range of southern Peru, Bolivia and northern Argentina and
Chile. The short-tailed chinchilla is
herbivorous and will eat the vegetation around it and occasionally will feed on
insects. This animal is nocturnal and uses its vibrissae, or whiskers, to help
it navigate through the darkness. It will use its whiskers to determine if rock
crevices are wide enough to pass through; The animal will only stop forward
movement when its whiskers bend.
The short-tailed chinchilla is
critically endangered because of unregulated and extensive hunting. According
to the IUCN, the species populations are believed to be recovering in some
areas as it is now bred easily, which helps reduce a need for hunting and
trapping in the wild. But the disappearance of this species in the past has
given it its critically endangered listing, until there is further evidence to
support a true recovery trend among existing populations in the wild.