“Chinchillas are two species of crepuscular rodents, slightly larger and more robust than ground squirrels. They are native to the Andes mountains in South America and live in colonies called herds at high elevations up to 4,270 m (14,000 ft). Historically, chinchillas lived in an area that included parts of Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, and Chile, but today colonies in the wild are known only in Chile. Along with their relatives, viscachas, they make up the family Chinchillidae.
The chinchilla (whose name literally means ‘little chincha’) is named after the Chincha people of the Andes, who once wore its dense, velvet-like fur. By the end of the 19th century, chinchillas had become quite rare due to hunting for their ultra-soft fur. Most chinchillas currently used by the fur industry for clothing and other accessories are farm-raised.
Both species of chinchilla are currently listed as a critically endangered species by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species due to a severe population loss approximated at a 90% global population loss over the last 15 years. The severe population decline has been caused by chinchilla hunting by humans. Until 1996, they were listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. By 2006 they were listed as ‘Threatened’, and in 2011 they became ‘Critically Endangered’.”