Save Iconic, Adorable Chinchillas From Extinction

Target: Marcelo Mena Carrasco, Chile’s Minister of Environment

Goal: Restore the population of the short-tailed chinchilla by demanding more protection for this long-endangered rodent.

The short-tailed chinchilla (Chinchilla chinchilla) is a chinchilla species — one of two known, along with the long-tailed chinchilla (C. lanigera) — native to the Andes, their range originally spanning Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. Once hunted widely for their fur, their population has dwindled to the point that the species is considered endangered by the IUCN and in the country of Chile.

In Chile, the chinchilla is listed as extinct in one region and critically endangered in two others.

While widespread hunting of the chinchilla has been successfully stifled over the years, the IUCN still notes that mining poses a serious threat to its recovery in the wild. That organization also lists agricultural expansion and the removal of wild chinchillas for fur farming as threats. Historically, habitat destruction which has affected the chinchilla has come in the form of shrub burning and harvesting, mainly aimed at the algarrobilla plant.

The short-tailed chinchilla has been threatened for a long time. So long, in fact, that one researcher noted that, as a fur resource, “… the number of chinchillas hunted declined until the resource was considered economically extinct by 1917,” and that due in part to this, hunting of chinchillas became illegal in 1929. (Though this law was not actually enforced until much later.)

Today C. chinchilla enjoys a protected status in Chile. However, various chinchilla populations are scattered throughout the Andes, and their sizes are unknown, with estimates assuming that they are still low enough to place them in the “endangered” category. In order to successfully restore short-tailed chinchilla populations, bringing them back to a “least concern” status, these groups must be monitored and laws must be enforced to prevent further encroachment on their habitats by humans.

This is especially the case for mining and agricultural companies.


Dear Minister Carrasco,

Please pressure your government to work to restore the lost populations of the long-endangered short-tailed chinchilla (Chinchilla chinchilla) — one of only two known chinchilla species alongside the long-tailed chinchilla (C. lanigera) — by protecting its known remaining habitat from human encroachment, especially in the forms of mining, agricultural expansion, and breeder catchment.

This rodent has been threatened with extinction since the early 1900s, and still remains vulnerable to that fate. It occupies craggy slopes high in the Andes, where it eeks out a simple life. It poses no threats to humans, and is one of the most iconic animals of South America.

Both species of chinchilla make up an important part of their high mountain ecosystem, being a primary source of sustenance for many Andean predators. To lose them would be to lose an important piece of the Andean ecology.

Please consider this letter and pressure your government accordingly.

Thank you.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Jaime Jimenez

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One Comment

  1. So sad how these beautiful little animals have been savagely hunted and had their habitats destroyed. They need strong protections put in place. Don’t let them become extinct!

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