The long-tailed chinchilla youngsters, known as ‘kits’ were born to first-time parents, Gladys and Julian, who can normally be seen in the Park’s Friendly Animal Encounters and Safari Academy classroom sessions.
Keepers suspected that Gladys may have been pregnant as she was putting on a lot of weight, as discovered in her weekly health checks. After they had alerted the Park’s veterinary team to their suspicions, the vet confirmed Gladys was pregnant and promptly put her on ‘maternity leave’.
During their afternoon rounds on 1 June, keepers were excited to find the three tiny balls of fluff, no bigger than a ping pong ball, cuddled up with their mum.
Head Keeper of the Discovery Trail, Amy Sewell, said, “At present we have two adult long-tailed chinchillas by the names of Gladys and Julian and we are over the moon that they have become first-time parents to three incredibly cute kits. Gladys is doing a great job of looking after all three, which is a hard task, as the kits are already exploring their surroundings!”
She continued, “Unlike a lot of mammal species, the kits are born almost as tiny replicas of their parents, with their eyes open, a full coat of fur and are very mobile. Although they rely on mum’s milk for the first few days, ours are already on solids! Their birth is great news for us as their wild counterparts in South America, are currently classed as ‘endangered’, with the population declining by 90% in the last 15 years.
“Gladys is currently on maternity leave, but Julian can still be seen at the new purpose-built animal encounter stage, which provides a great opportunity to educate our guests about these incredible animals during our daily talks.”
All babies born at the Park during 2019 have to have names beginning with the letter ‘H’, so the two baby boys have been named Hodor and Hercules and the girl has been called Helena.
The chinchilla kits are another addition to the Park’s recent baby boom, with the appearance of three dhole pups in March, two penguin chicks in May and a Persian fallow deer fawn in June.
Long-tailed chinchillas are classed as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They have been threatened for years by human activities such as poaching, hunting, the pet trade and their habitats being used for mining and grazing by domestic cattle and goats.
The chinchilla kits and mum are housed in an off-show area, but dad, Julian, can be seen during the Park’s Friendly Animal Encounters, which are included in the standard admission charge of £24.00 for adults, £19.00 for children aged 3-15 and £22.00 for concessions. Children under the age of three are free of charge. Admission includes a Free Return Ticket. Adventure Theme Park rides are charged extra.