Meet Evita, a long-tailed chinchilla

Evita is a long-tailed chinchilla from the Andes mountains of South America. She is presented today in a short video we made with Zoo keeper Prentice.

Evita was born at the Atlanta Zoo on January 18, 2017 and came to the El Paso Zoo three months later in April. Chinchillas can best be described as a bundle of fur with large Mickey Mouse like ears. Because of these characteristics they have often been described as simply enchanting. Unfortunately chinchillas are almost extinct in the wild. When the IUCN last estimated the number of the wild in 2015 the population was decreasing with an estimated population of 5,350 individuals.

One of two species of chinchilla the long-tailed chinchilla is found only in the rugged mountains of the Andes mountains of Chile. Their survival is threatened mainly by human activities including poaching for the pet trade, grazing by cattle and goats, mining and firewood extraction.

Just the Facts

Status: Common in captivity, almost extinct in the wild

Distribution: The foothills of the Andes mountains from 3,000 to 5,000 meters and in the coastal mountains of Chile, in addition to being popular pets worldwide

Habitat: rocky, barren areas in mountain crevices

Diet: It is an herbivore, eating any available vegetation

Length: 10 to 14 inches

Weight: 500 to 800 grams

Reproduction: These animals are polygamous; the female gives birth after a gestation period of 111 days to from 1 to 3 young. These young are very precocious, (highly developed at birth). They nurse for 6 to 8 weeks and reach maturity at 8 months of age. The female can produce up to two litters of young per breeding season. 

Longevity: 10 years in the wild, up to twice that in captivity

General Description: These animals have a thick grey coat with black trim, large eyes. Its limbs have small claws at the end of their digits; they have large ears and long vibrissae (whisker-like appendages that assist animals in navigating around in their environment).

Behavior: They live in groups of up to 100 individuals. Chinchillas are nocturnal and adept at climbing rocks.

Did you know? Chinchillas have been hunted to near extinction in the wild because of their thick soft pelt. Each hair follicle that makes up its coat can produce up to 60 hairs!  

Where can you find them? They are bred in many different places to be sold as pets, kept in zoos and a few survive in their natural habitat.

cover – Smithsonian National Zoo, Wikimedia Creative Commons

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