Every year, Ayacucho’s Festival of the Vicuña attracts many tourists from around Peru and around the world. Not least among the attractions are the shearing of the camelids and traditional dancing.
Also on show at this year’s Festival (23–24 June) is a ceremonial payment to the Earth as well as a tour of the Pampa Galeras reserve.
For thousands of years, the vicuña and other local members of the camel family have been used for the wool, meat, and as beasts of burden.
There are four native species: llama, alpaca, guanaco, and vicuña. For locals, the last is the most valuable—kept for high-quality fibre, the vicuñas were prized by the Inca nobles, including the emperor himself. Indeed, it was forbidden for anyone but the upper class to wear their wool.
Numbers of the vicuña, thought to be the wild ancestor of the llama, were so low in the early 1970s that they were declared endangered. Peruvian and international conservation authorities worked together to establish the Pampa Galeras reserve with men trained to protect the wild herds from poachers.