saving the wild chinchillas ecosystem restoration north central chile l.
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Saving the Wild Chinchillas Ecosystem Restoration North-Central Chile. Peter Riger Chair AZA Rodent Taxon Advisory Group. Amy Deane President Save the Wild Chinchillas Inc. Overall Objectives.

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Saving the Wild Chinchillas Ecosystem Restoration North-Central Chile

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saving the wild chinchillas ecosystem restoration north central chile
Saving the Wild ChinchillasEcosystem Restoration North-Central Chile

Peter Riger


AZA Rodent Taxon

Advisory Group

Amy Deane


Save the Wild Chinchillas Inc.

overall objectives
Overall Objectives
  • Main goal - to ensure that endangered long-tailed chinchillas (C. lanigera) do not become extinct.
  • Ecosystem restoration - propagating native vegetation, some of which are threatened, around existing chinchilla colonies.
  • To benefit other dependent fauna, which are endemic.
  • To help curb grazing and other habitat degrading activities.
overall objectives3
Overall Objectives
  • To actively involve the local people in restoration efforts.
  • To promote environmental awareness amongst the local public, especially children.
  • Working towards establishing a field school that ensures sustained protection of this ecosystem.
project goals
Project Goals
  • Recreate essential habitat for endangered chinchillas
  • Recreate other natural vegetative communities (e.g. creek vegetation that enhances a cooler environment for chinchillas upslope, aids in combating global warming on a chinchilla scale)
  • Facilitate exclusive livestock grazing areas
project goals6
Project Goals
  • Habitat being defined by vegetal studies in existing chinchilla colonies (30 years of studies)
  • Focus on species that we know chinchillas consume within these colonies (30 years of knowledge)
  • Emergency care until we can determine the nature of chinchilla habitat before severe human induced landscape changes
wild chinchillas
Wild Chinchillas
  • Once believed extinct, the only known wild Chinchilla lanigera exist in north central Chile (Jiménez, 1995).
  • This endemic species experienced dramatic decrease in its population and range
  • An estimated 21 million were killed in less than 60 years for the fur trade and the population has yet to recover (Albert, 1901; Jiménez, 1996).
  • Chinchillas are endangered and protected by CITES (Glade, 1988; IUCN, 1972).
wild chinchillas8
Wild Chinchillas
  • Population estimates vary from 3000 to approximately 5000 (Jiménez, 1995; Mohlis, personal communication, 1999).
  • Over 17 years (1983-1990), a dramatic decrease in the spatial coverage of colonies occurred (Mohlis 1983 and Jiménez 1995).
  • Previous researchers identified the distribution and characterized typical habitat for chinchillas (Mohlis 1983, Jiménez 1990, 1995, Deane non-published data).
chinchilla brevicaudata
  • Critically Endangered
  • Shorter ears and tail than

C. lanigera

  • Uncontrolled chinchilla hunting until believed extinct
  • Estimated 21 million animals killed in 60 years
  • Population not able to recover due to natural history traits
  • Reproduction of Chinchillas long gestation (110 days), small litters (1 or 2), sexual maturity (8 months)
  • Fuel wood use, ore processing, and agriculture in the past
  • Current mining and agricultural practices
  • All areas have been severely affected by resource exploitation.
  • Many hill slopes have little vegetation and hardly any native tree species can be seen.
agriculture as a human land use
Agriculture as a Human Land Use
  • Abandoned farms and mines
  • Continued firewood collection for heating, bathing and cooking by the poorest people in Chile (IV Region)
  • Free ranging livestock: Decrease in livestock (9000 animals in 1983 to 1800 in 2000), and farms, but no one has tried to restore native vegetation
  • Introduced rabbits and hares consume vegetation essential for the native fauna especially endangered long-tailed chinchillas.
habitat fragmentation
Habitat Fragmentation
  • Isolating not only chinchilla colonies but has created isolated patches of habitat for all wildlife species
  • Small populations and limited mobility have a higher probability of extinction
  • Creating habitat by growing native plant species that serve as food, cover and shelter for chinchillas, also aids in the conservation of other plant and animal species in the community such as Degus (Octodon degus), the Chinchilla rat (Abrocoma bennetti), and Cururos (Spalacopus cyanus) that only occur here in central Chile.
  • Many of the plant species are also of conservation concerns and by collecting seeds from different locales, we are ensuring genetic diversity.
las chinchillas national reserve
Las Chinchillas National Reserve
  • Formed in 1983 – covers 4,229 ha
  • 15 species of predominant mammals and 35 species of avifauna including:
  • Chinchilla Chinchilla lanigera
  • Pampas Cat Felis colocola (endangered)
  • Leaf eared Mouse Phylottis darwinii
  • Little Grison Galictis cuja
  • Coruro – Spalacopus cyanus
  • Tinamou – Northoprocta perdicaria
  • Giant Hummingbird – Patagona gigas
  • Andean condor – Vultur gryphus
las chinchillas national reserve18
Las Chinchillas National Reserve
  • Darwins Leaf-eared Mouse Phylottis darwini
  • Cururo Spalacopus cyanus
las chinchillas national reserve19
Las Chinchillas National Reserve
  • Pampas Cat

Felis colocolo

  • Andean Condor

Vultur gryphus

north american zoo population isis
North American Zoo Population (ISIS)
  • Chinchilla brevicaudata 12.12.2 in 12 institutions
  • Chinchilla lanigera 118.109.28 in 95 institutions
  • Equal to 300 individuals with a large percentage maintained in education programs
  • Domestic pet trade: possibly tens of thousands in private hands
plants seedling and seed sources
Plants, Seedling and Seed Sources
  • Our Nursery
  • The Local Community (friends, farmers & workers)
  • Road cut collecting
road cut collecting
Road cut collecting
  • Along the dirt roads many species of concern to us, germinate and grow only to be cut down when the dirt roads undergo repairs
  • We collect these seedlings and use for restoration
  • BONUS - very cheap financially and ecologically
    • we don’t have to collect seeds and grow the plants from germination
    • we don’t waste time, space, soil, or water resources on seeds that wouldn’t have germinated
our nursery
Our Nursery
  • Seed collection from different drainage basins
  • Creating and maintaining seed beds
  • Seedlings transplanted into plastic bags or modified bottles that promote high root to shoot ratios & deep root development (bottles donated from Coca-Cola in Illapel, Chile - surplus non-returnable bottles, disposed bottles)
  • Can be used in nursery for the same seedling for a few years
our nursery24
Our Nursery
  • Decrease heat in the nursery because the bottles are transparent
  • Commercially available black plastic seedling bags add heat and deteriorate in two years
our nursery25
Our Nursery
  • Water source is a perennial contour canal that runs along the nursery
  • The bottles are placed into square depressions into the soil - irrigate by filling the square hole until the area is full (five feet square and 1 foot deep)
  • Water is absorbed by the roots bottom of bottle to the top thus ensuring the entire soil area is irrigated
from nursery to restoration site
From Nursery to Restoration Site
  • In some areas we built fences when funding - helps exclude livestock (goats, sheep cows, horses and donkeys)
  • Holes dug a little deeper than seedling container size (~ 1.5 feet) - dug with a large crowbar and a tuna-can
  • A little soil is backfilled, a handful of topsoil is added, with/without natural fertilizer
  • Water is added before seedling is sown; this is covered with soil before adding more water and moist soil
from nursery to restoration site27
From Nursery to Restoration Site
  • A dirt semicircle that collects rainwater surface flow
  • Rock mulch is used from nearby
    • Adds shade to the seedling
    • Accumulates condensation- natural irrigation
  • Each seedling has a protective fence
    • majority of grazing by exotic (non-native) rabbits and hares
  • As of 2004, plants are currently being measured and tagged to quantify establishment, growth, and survivorship
restoration sites
Restoration Sites
  • Habitat creation - establishing a new area for chinchillas that exist between colonies or suitable habitat
  • Habitat extension - expanding currently occupied areas in hopes of expanding chinchilla colonies
  • Corridors - areas connecting existing chinchilla colonies and with abandoned/extinct colonies to promote dispersal and colonization of new areas
project progress
Project Progress
  • Began in year 2000 with funding obtained for a nursery in November
  • Learned the nature of local plant species - their successful germination and sustenance (problems with Ephedra and Puya spp.)
  • Learned what species need what kind of protection from predation
  • Have planted approximately 4000 seedlings- three expansion areas, two new habitat areas, and one corridor
project progress30
Project Progress
  • Many plants need years to grow before are suitable for chinchilla habitat ~Vslow growing desert species
  • However, some plants have gone to seed in the second year. And these do serve as food.
  • Grass species are usable within the same planting season and chinchillas preferred food.
project progress31
Project Progress
  • Gained community support and assistance -donations of tools, time and seedlings from local farmers
  • Our project takes place on communally owned lands.
  • We hire within this community for help in this project!
  • Raised $24000 for this project ($14000 in the last couple of months)
  • ØAct for Nature (Monaco)
  • Conservation Technology Support Program (CTSP) (United State of America)
  • Lemmon Foundation (United State of America)
  • Rufford Small Grants(for Nature Conservation) (RSG) (United Kingdom)
  • Zoological Society for the Conservation of Species and Population (ZGAP) (Germany)
contact information
Contact Information

Amy Deane

Casilla 302, Illapel

IV Region, Chile