Wild chinchillas (both long-tailed and short-tailed, Chinchilla lanigera and Chinchilla chinchilla) are native to Chile in South America. Chinchillas live in dry, rocky and sandy habitat in the foothills of the Andes Mountains with little cover from various arid vegetation. Chinchillas are threatened by poaching, hunting, predation by foxes, and habitat loss. Once widely distributed, the wild chinchilla colonies are declining, making them critically endangered. It is thought that 3,000-5,000 individuals remain in the wild.
This project by “Save the Wild Chinchilla” is restoring lost chinchilla habitat by replanting vegetation. The Ulysses S. Seal Conservation Grant Program has helped cover the costs for nursery supplies and transportation. A new nursery has been completed with the help of volunteers and chinchilla colonies have been observed near the restoration sites. This project was championed by Christine Ness, Interpretive Naturalist at the Minnesota Zoo.