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Vicuña

The vicuña (Vicugna vicugna), is a camelid species native to South America. They are most commonly found in Bolivia, Peru, Chile, and northwest Argentina. Peru has the largest number. Bolivia has great number of wild vicuñas in the Southwestern side of the country. It lives in the high alpine regions of the Andes. Vicuñas live in the grass lands and plains in the mountain regions at an altitude of 4,000 to 5,500 meters (13000 to 18000 feet).

The vicuña is considered more delicate and graceful than the guanaco, and smaller. Although their coats may look thin, they are made up of insulating hairs that are softer and warmer than any other animal. Its long, woolly coat is tawny brown on the back while the hair on the throat and chest is white and quite long. The head is slightly shorter than the guanaco’s and the ears are slightly longer. The length of head and body is about 60 inches. They stand about 36 inches at shoulder height, and weigh just under 150 pounds.

When knitted together, the product of the vicuña’s fur is very soft and warm. It is understood that the Inca raised vicuñas for their wool, and that it was against the law for any but royalty to wear vicuña garments. Today, to prevent poaching, all vicuñas are gathered up each year and specimens with fur more than 2.5 inches long are shorn.

Vicuñas live in family-based groups made up of a male, and 5 to 15 females and their young. Each group has its own territory of about 11 miles and this can fluctuate depending on the availability of food. Its diet consists of low grasses which grow in clumps on the ground. It will also lick calcareous stones and rocks, which are rich in salt. They will also drink salt water. Mating usually occurs in March-April, and after a gestation period of about 11 months the female gives birth to a single young which is nursed for about 10 days; the young becomes independent at about 12 to 18 hours.

Vicua


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