Helping you care for your chinnie


What is a rescue?

This is very close to my heart and I write about it often. “Rescue” is just a very misleading word. In the true sense of the word a “rescue” animal is an animal you saved. The best example would be stray dogs or cats that people take in because they feel sorry for them.
In my opinion a “rescue” chinchilla is any chinchilla that is not treated well. They need to be rescued and given good care. Most of the “rescue” chinchillas in my care are not really rescues. The majority of them comes from homes where they were loved and well taken care of. When it became impossible to keep them, they came here to retire.
The true “rescues” in my care were all bought, we paid money to save them. The ONLY exception is Scarlett, who was bought here for me to PTS. I fixed her and she’s been here over 6 years now. All the others cost us money. You don’t buy “rescue” cats and dogs. They have no money value. You will find them in shelters and they roam the streets.

The average life span of a “rescue” chinchilla is 2 years. A few, like Dennis (5 years here) will live longer and a lot will die within months. Up to now I only lost 2 chinnies that came here to retire, both soon after they arrived. The others are all still here and they will live many more years.

The 7 I bought yesterday were not rescues. I was asked to take them for personal reasons. I still pay for them. They were dirty and I said so. In this weather and with the wrong dust they will look like that in 3 days. The important thing, which I also made clear, is that they were on good food, all their lives.
2 are old and show it. I have no idea how long they will live but I plan as if they will live 10 more years. The others are young and there is a baby girl. They actually come from very good bloodlines, imported about 10 years ago. So what does this make them then? Not rescues. 2 Pensioners, 4 breeding chinchillas I bought with pedigrees and the baby of one of the girls.
2 are excellent chinchillas. The other 2 are far better than most I’ve seen around here but I haven’t decided yet. If there is any doubt they will not breed. There is no need. The baby has a pedigree but I didn’t breed her so she will be adopted by the right people as a pet. Just not before I am sure, otherwise she stays with mom and both just retire.
My problem all these years have been what to call them. Not the ones I bought now. It was a personal thing. The ones that retire here are pensioners but when I use the word everyone thinks I’m talking of senior citizens. I am, just senior chinchillas.
What are the rest? We buy them to save them but you don’t buy rescues. Rescue centers and sanctuaries take them in. I am neither. I just take care of them. Using the word “rescue” means people know it was a neglected chinnie that is now safe. The fact that they cost me and Willie money is irrelevant. They were still neglected and are now safe.
Since I don’t claim to be anything and do not raise funds or operate as a charity, it is easy to say “rescue”. It makes explaining a lot easier, especially where it comes to things that go wrong, what I can’t fix and what I can fix.
From time to time I just have to remind everyone. There are chinnies that retired here years ago and the people still keep contact with me. They will never be rescues, I don’t discuss them and I don’t post pics of them. They are just well taken care of. I just still don’t breed with them. They stay together in same sex pairs or the males go with old females. Almost all are males anyways. There is one female.
The rescues are rescues. We saved them, just at a price. We do not use the word “rescue” to get anything from anyone. I don’t ask for anything and I am not a charity so it is illegal.
I know CBASA is busy with a project to register a sanctuary. It will take a long time. It will just be legal. It won’t change the fact that a rescue is a rescue. They became unwanted, people don’t take care of them anymore and they come here. We just pay for them because people still want their money.
I can’t think of another word anyways.

The injuries she got as a small girl because of some idiot is clearly visible. She doesn't breed, she is with a very old boy.

The injuries she got as a small girl because of some idiot is clearly visible. She doesn’t breed, she is with a very old boy.

The sad reality of chinchilla shelters

I’ve been doing this for years. I found out everything there is to find out, legal aspects, the works. If I make a mistake someone will nail me.
The South African law doesn’t provide chinchillas much protection. Even if it did, it is not enforced anyways. The only time it is enforced is when someone lodges a complaint. Even then, not much happens.
I tried to register a shelter over 3 years ago. I still have all the papers. I must register a company, have a Black director on the board and if I employ someone it must be according to Black Economic Empowerment. Nothing to do with politics, I don’t care about politics. I just don’t even know a Black person in SA with a chinchilla. I have a few Black friends with chinnies in other countries but not here. There are a few Indian people, that’s it.
I must have an auditor and a lot of other junk.
In short, it is too difficult for a single person to adhere to all the regulations and it will cost me a fortune. I just left it there. What I also found out is if there are any restrictions on keeping them in private, how many I can have, etc. There is for rabbits but not for chinchillas. There is not even a restriction on cage size. This is why a pet shop can keep a chinchilla in a hamster cage. It is perfectly legal.
There are many “shelters” and “sanctuaries” advertizing in the classifieds. They will take in any unwanted exotic pets. They do this for profit, they sell them. There are a few registered shelters, most for cats and dogs, I am friends with one that helps monkeys and I know of a few that rehabilitate wild birds and other endemic animals.
I do not know of a shelter for chinchillas in South Africa that is registered specifically for chinchillas. I know of a few that claim to be shelters. If they are registered as a “general” shelter it should be legal.
There are too many legal implications. A charity like a registered shelter can do fund raising. It is audited and they do not make a profit. They get donations and ask adoption fees. All that money goes back to the shelter.
I as individual do not have the right to do it. It is illegal. An organization can do this, I saw Willie posted something about it. They still can’t give me the money. What they can do is donate food, cages, etc. Just not money. They are busy with all the legal stuff and our aim is to still have a chinchillas sanctuary that is run as an entity, totally separated from my pets. I will just take care of the chinchillas, no more.
The sad reality is that till that happens a chinchilla mill has as many rights as I have. The only differences are that my cages are huge, they get good food and I don’t breed with rescues. They are my pets and I use my money. Willie helps but it is because we are friends. I can’t take money and since it is illegal I won’t.
They will get it right, I know it. It will just take time but it will be legal. Just like what I do is perfectly legal, I just don’t take money. I use my own.
I get lots of offers from people willing to take in rescues. In 6 years I re-homed about 4. Strange how everyone wants to help till you tell them it is an old boy with fatty liver disease that has 6 months to live and must be fed twice a day. Or it is an old girl that was bred into the ground and doesn’t give babies anymore. Then they suddenly can’t help anymore.
This is why I don’t re-home “rescues”. I re-homed one a month ago. My friend didn’t ask and she doesn’t breed. I asked her. It didn’t cost her anything. It opened a cage I desperately need and he got a good home.
Most we have to buy. It costs us money. There is no way I will pay for one or take one Willie paid for (which is usually the case), then give it to you to breed more rescues. It is not about what will make you happy or benefit you, it is about what will be best for them.
The idea behind a shelter is to take in homeless animals and take care of them till they can be re-homed. I don’t see a chinchilla shelter working in South Africa because people don’t want sick, old or disabled chinchillas with genetic disorders. Not even for free.
What I do see and have dreamed about for many years is a sanctuary where they can retire and get the care they deserve. I as individual can’t do this as a registered charity. I can have them as pets, as many as I want as long as the care is good. I just can’t and won’t take money for it.
I believe it will happen. For now, we make it work. Even “rescues” have value so they get sold. The day they don’t have a money value we will need a lot of space and a lot of money.
Till then, it works just fine as it is.


Lenny, most famous “rescue” in South Africa

I often post pics of Lenny. I usually then get asked what is wrong with him. Time to share his life story.
Lenny was bought by a nice couple about 2 years ago. I can’t remember who bred him but it was arranged that they pick him up here. He was supposed to be over 8 weeks old but he was small and very quiet for a young boy. There was nothing else wrong.
A few months later they contacted me because Lenny stopped growing and had difficulty moving. His one back leg went lame. I guessed he had a stroke and told them what to do. Lenny stayed the same size but over the next few months he went more quiet. They asked me to take him in. It was about a year ago.
Lenny is not a real rescue. He was never neglected by this people. The last decision his owners made was to send him here where he can be better cared for.
There are so many things that could’ve caused this. Usually it is the result of bad breeding, bad food or weaning them way too early. I don’t know. I do know that the other Lenny’s do not survive or live long. Breeders hide them and owners think it was their fault.
When I took Lenny in he barely moved. He ate and drank water. Not much else. He weighed 190g. I gave him a friend. First it was the girls I weaned. When it was time to move them I left one girl with him. The change was spectacular. Within days he started walking around in the cage. In the beginning I bathed him. Within a month he climbed into the bath by himself and did what he should do in the bath.
He still has no balance. His back legs are still stiff but I give him physio. He will walk and just fall over. In the past he just lay there. Pretty soon he got up immediately and kept going. Now he takes it in his stride. A few months ago I posted a pic of Lenny in the wheel. He got in but couldn’t make it turn. I had to take the wheel out because he would get hurt. I customized a cage for them.

Me and my boy Lenny

Me and my boy Lenny

Lenny has a glass dust bath that is not as deep as the others. His fur is mottled and has terrible density but he shines like a new penny. It is a sign of good health. There is nothing wrong with his appetite, metabolism, intelligence or will to live. He is fully functional and does everything himself. Obviously he will never mate and never developed the urge. I believe his development was halted before he was even close to puberty.
Lenny is a happy boy, handicaps and all. He now weighs 240g and will stay this weight. He adores attention. I gave him a ladder and waited. A few nights ago I posted the pics. He used the ladder to climb on his house. I was speechless.
Lenny will not live to a ripe old age. I have no idea how long he will live. What I do know is that he will live what live he has to the fullest, the Lenny way.
In January he will also be on national TV. I chose to show the country only one of my chinchillas. I picked Lenny.



She was brought to me when she was 8 weeks old. A breeder put her in a cage with an adult male. The male wanted to mate with her, ripped her to pieces and all but killed her. The breeder brought her to me to put her to sleep because he was too big a coward to take her to a Vet.
Scarlett is the only true rescue Willie or I didn’t have to buy. The breeder left her here to die. I decided to give her a chance. For the next month I spent hours every day cleaning her wounds. She was in no state to handle a course of antibiotics, it would’ve killed her. The wounds were only skin deep but I could see her skull. I had to remove every single hair and piece of dust. If I missed one it would fester and kill her.

I was lucky and she was strong. She wanted to live. I still can’t believe the wounds didn’t get infected. Her one ear was almost torn off, her tail was almost torn off, her head was a mess and there was more wound than skin on her back. It started to heal but it healed slowly. I thought she would lose her tail but it was the first to heal. The lesions on her back healed next but the wounds on her head took 2 months.
Her ears will never stand up. With all the cleaning I had to do she became very scared of me. After her wounds healed it took a whole year to win back her confidence. Eventually I did and she climbs on me. I am just not allowed to hold her.
In a few months Scarlett will be 7 years old. After I went through all that with her I knew what I had to do. I started rescuing chinchillas. I also started to try and educate breeders.
Rescuing chinchillas is a lot easier than educating breeders. With the rescues I have the chance to make a difference, even if just for a few months or a few years. With Scarlett it became a lot of years.
With many breeders I don’t have any chance. I just take care of their mistakes and the breeding chinnies they don’t want anymore because they bred them into the ground.
Then people want to know why I lose my temper.

Scarlett1 Scarlett2



Scarlett passed away in June 2014.  RIP brave girl.