Meet the Gremlins!
With Halloween at our backs and the holidays right around the corner, I wanted to talk about one of the greatest holiday films ever, Gremlins! Did you know we have gremlins at the Zoo? If you come down to Wieland Wildlife Home, you can see Gizmo in person! Also, her brothers Stripe and Walnut. Okay, they may not be real gremlins (because the ones in the film are animatronic, sadly) but ours are pretty close to the real thing. Owning a gremlin means you have to follow three rules: avoid bright light, don’t get them wet, and don’t feed them after midnight. Seems simple enough, right? In the movie none of these rules are closely followed and chaos ensues, but for our chinchillas it’s very easy!
Rule #1: Avoid bright light. To the gremlins, bright lights of any kind are deadly, hence their propensity for nighttime shenanigans! As humans, we understand creatures of the night are referred to as “nocturnal.” Guess what? Chinchillas are nocturnal. Being nocturnal is a great way to avoid predators that may be more reliant on sight to find their prey. It is also cooler at night, which chinchillas are well adapted for. For a chinchilla, being cooler is important since their body temperature is 103 degrees, and their thick fur keeps them well insulated. Put a chinchilla in direct sunlight? Don’t worry, they won’t melt into a puddle on the ground. Our chinchillas are still nocturnal, but they are very active during the day since they are used to our human schedule.
Rule #2: Don’t get them wet. Add water to your gremlin and it will multiply! It is imperative for both gremlins and chinchillas to not get wet. Okay, a chinchilla won’t multiply, but you still don’t want to get them wet. Chinchillas are native to the Andes Mountains in Chile, and are found at high, chilly altitudes. That dense fur coat works extremely well at keeping them warm, but could cause them to freeze to death if it gets wet. In order to keep clean, chinchillas roll around in volcanic ash. This works to dislodge any dead skin and hair and absorb oils or small amounts of moisture naturally found in their environment.
Rule #3: Don’t feed them after midnight. What I have mostly been referring to as “gremlins” are really called Mogwai. This is the form we see Gizmo as throughout the film. Mogwai are the cute, cuddly, fuzzy forms. It is what happens if you feed them after midnight where they have earned their name gremlins! Feeding the Mogwai causes them to metamorphosize, similar to a caterpillar. The Mogwai create a gooey, oozing cocoon where they pupate. When they hatch, they are in their gremlin form: scaly, slimy, and not friendly at all! This is where the chinchillas and gremlins vary. Feed a chinchilla after midnight? They’ll still be a chinchilla in the morning! Being nocturnal, chinchillas are going to be active throughout the night. They are herbivores who are continuously foraging for dried grasses, leaves, berries, and bark. Being nocturnal, they will certainly be eating past midnight!
The next time you are at the Zoo, swing by Wieland Wildlife Home and say hi to our very own gremlins. If there’s one thing both gremlins and chinchillas are good at, it’s being social!
(photo: Gizmo eating a piece of sweet potato, by Emily B.)
Keeper III, Ambassador Animals