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Chinchillas

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by sooty mangabey, 17 Aug 2014.

  1. sooty mangabey

    sooty mangabey Well-Known Member

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    Chinchillas are commonly kept in zoos.

    Are the animals on display the same as those which are kept in pets? Or are they ever a 'wild' form? Or is there no difference between the wild and 'domestic' animals?

    Bottom line: are chinchillas in zoos essentially 'domestic' animals, on a par with camels and guinea pigs?
     
  2. vogelcommando

    vogelcommando Well-Known Member

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    I'm quite sure the Chinchillas kept in zoos are the domestic form, which however don't is different from the wild form - at least not by sight. Geneticly I guess they may be different which is not strange if you reaslise howmany color-mutations already have been bred.
     
  3. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    they are the same. All captive chinchillas descend from twelve animals captured in 1923 for a US fur-farming venture (as you are probably aware they were being decimated in the wild for their fur). It wasn't until after WWII that they reached Europe. And it wasn't until later that the colour morphs started appearing (especially after they entered the pet trade).

    There may be captive animals in South America which are from different wild stock, but otherwise they are all from those dozen animals from 1923.
     
  4. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    okay with a bit more research it turns out that what I wrote above is not true in the slightest!!

    There's this big myth in chinchilla circles that a chap called M.F. Chapman is responsible for chinchillas being in captivity and that the twelve he brought back to the US in 1923 are where all captive chinchillas derive from (which is what I repeated earlier).

    Actually the initial attempts at large-scale chinchilla breeding began in Chile in 1920, and in the 1930s and 40s animals from these farms were exported to the USA and Norway. Chapman did indeed catch his chinchillas from the wild (possibly illegally) but his are not even close to being the sole ancestors of all the world's captive stock.

    The move into chinchillas becoming pets (rather than just fur animals) seems to have happened around the 1980s.
     
  5. devilfish

    devilfish Well-Known Member

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    I've been a bit surprised to find that some zoo chinchillas (like London's) have a different body shape and longer ears than more common pet chinchillas. I'm not sure why though, or whether this is just chance variation.
     
  6. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    Trying to remember when Chinchillas first appeared as pets in the UK. Certainly not the 1960's, maybe the 70's- I think definately by the 80's. Of course initially they were all 'chinchilla' coloured(grey) then gradually the various colour varieties appeared. I think they aren't quite as popular now as they once were, but could be wrong there.
     
  7. Tunanta

    Tunanta Well-Known Member

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    There are different species and these have different body shapes. It is thought that captive chinchillas come from Chinchilla lanigera but I know breeders still talk about having individuals of the diff species and using them to breed different traits into offspring, suggesting many now might be hybrids. Anyone interested should find quite a lot of debate about the sub-species and whether they still exist in captivity on forums for chinchilla breeders and pet owners. Not sure about zoos, but I don't think there is a proper breeding program for them so most probably come from pet/show breeders, unless there have been any fairly recent imports. Breeding can make quite a big difference to the shape and size of chinchillas-show chinchillas are typically much rounder, 'blockier', thicker furred and larger/heavier than those not from show lines so that could be why zoo specimens might look different from some pets.
     
    Last edited: 18 Aug 2014
  8. Tunanta

    Tunanta Well-Known Member

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    They are still fairly popular as pets in UK I think (though not as popular as the US and elsewhere in Europe) and are still sold in the Pets at Home shops. The National Chinchilla Society might be a good source of info on this-I think their shows are not as well attended as they have been in the past which would suggest you're right that they were more popular in the past.
     
  9. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    there are two species: the long-tailed chinchilla Chinchilla lanigera, which is the one kept as a pet, and the short-tailed chinchilla C. chinchilla (formerly C. brevicaudata).

    The initial Chilean fur farm in 1920 started with C. lanigera but later obtained some C. chinchilla stock from Bolivia. Several fur farms were soon up and running using animals from the initial farm so it is possible animals were being hybridised at that point. The animals exported to the USA and Europe may have been pure lanigera or hybrids. Who knows. The animals Chapman brought to the US would definitely have been pure lanigera because they were wild-caught.

    All I can find regarding short-tailed chinchillas in captivity today are vague references to the differences between them and intimations that they exist. I expect they are kept, but at the same time I would also expect them to be mostly hybrids given that their purpose was originally to produce fur.