Lake Superior Zoo, Duluth, Minnesota

Home    /    Volunteer    /    Employment    /    Contact Us    /    Map

Animals - Griggs Learning Center

Chinchilla - Chico & Laverne 
Scientific Name: Chinchilla lanigera
Range: Andes Mountains in South America
Habitat: Arid rocky regions at elevations of 3,000 to 15,000 feet.
Diet: Strictly vegetarians, they prefer the Iro (spiny grass) and other plants growing on rocks. Will also eat roots, bark, and berries. They obtain water through dew on the plants and outcroppings of rocks. At the zoo they eat pellets and hay.
Fun Facts:
  • The Chincha and Inca Indians hunted the chinchilla for food.
  • A newborn will have fur, all 20 teeth, and the eyes are open. They will nurse for six to eight weeks; however they are capable of running a few hours after birth and can eat solid food a few days after birth.
  • They generally live to be six to ten years old in the wild and can live to be 20 years old in captivity.
  • The chinchilla is well adapted for its rocky habitat and mountain climate. They have stiff bristles on their toes and rubber-like pads on the bottoms of their feet, which makes them extremely agile. They have long thick fur to keep warm at night and large ears to use as heat regulators during the warmer days.
  • Chinchilla fur is rumored to be the softest fur of any animal. It takes about 8,000 hairs side by side to equal an inch. This makes the hair finer than a spider's webbing. There are 20-90 hairs per follicle whereas most fur-bearing animals have 4-8 hairs per follicle.
  • In the 19th century, the chinchilla was hunted for its fur coat. The trapping trade almost caused the extinction of the chinchilla. In 1923, permission was given to begin a breeding stock for use in the fur trade. By the 1930's, almost no wild animals were being used to make coats. In the late 1970's there were almost 3,000 chinchilla farms in the United States and Canada. 

<< Back to Zoo Central