I stole this picture from one of Erin’s previous posts, but it was just so cute I figured why attempt to get a better one? Salt was born at the museum in December 2002 with his brother, Pepper. Their parents were named Chili and Argentina, and they lived at the museum for several years, as well. Salt lives in our education holding room (EHR) off exhibit with Pepper, where they share an enclosure together. They are both used for educational programs and birthday parties because they are friendly and easy to handle. Sometimes, however, Salt gets a little moody and decides he doesn’t want to be held anymore and will give the handler a little nip to say, “OK, put me down already!”
Chinchillas are naturally inquisitive animals, and Salt makes good use of his playtime when he is in the playpen with Pepper. They will both leap over toys and on height structures, and run through tunnels. Salt also has his own rolly ball, which is a bigger version of what you would use for your gerbil or hamster at home. It’s basically just a big clear plastic ball that he can roll around in and explore. The rolly balls are quite useful for us when it comes to the chinchillas, because it allows us to let the them roam around without actually being loose. Since they are so fast and agile, it is hard to catch them if they are just roaming freely. But it’s also pretty humorous to watch them roll around in these giant balls, which is another perk to using them! With as cute as chinchillas are, them rolling around in the balls just sends the adorable meter out the roof!
The first time I ever held a chinchilla, there was one thing about them that really amazed me: their fur. It’s hard to describe how soft their fur is. It’s almost something that you just have to experience for yourself to believe. I have never felt anything so fluffy and soft in my life! (Although I hear alpacas are really soft, too) But, of course, chinchillas are known for their soft fur, and have been exploited for many years because of it. In fact, the wild population was almost wiped out due to the excessive hunting in order to use their fur for coats and other clothing. Now it is illegal to hunt or trap wild chinchillas, but the wild population has never fully recovered from being hunted years ago. Did you know it takes 100 to 200 chinchillas just to make one fur coat?
Chinchillas are also common in the pet market, along with other somewhat exotic animals like ferrets. But they are not like your average house dog, they require more than just some kibble and belly rubs. So do your research before purchasing one! Like most animals, they need a specific diet to keep them healthy. They also need plenty of exercise, as well as things to chew on and hide in. Another important part of chinchilla health is chinchilla dust, which is the equivalent of a bath for them. It’s good for chinchillas to have this dust to roll in because it’s best for chinchillas to not get wet. Their fur is so thick that they have difficulty drying completely, and it may lead to skin problems and other health issues.
Salt and his brother, Pepper, are pretty popular at birthday parties here at the museum. The kids love them because they are so adorable and fluffy. Maybe you’ll get to meet one of them at a school program or birthday party!