As representations on Peru's national coat of arms, the vicuna stands as a symbol of the country's wealth. There are currently around 67,000 vicunas in Peru and it is estimated that there is enough habitat to increase its population to at least a quarter of a million.
Vicunas are wild camelids. They are playful and have great agility. They are much smaller than llamas and alpacas: they rarely reach more than a meter in length or a meter in height. Their heads stand out in relation to the rest of the body, due to their rounded shape, bulging forehead, and large size. The eyes are equally large. Most vicunas are colored light brown, yellow, and white.
These camelids inhabit highlands and mountain slopes at high altitude, from 3,500 meters to 5,200 meters. They live to be from ten to twelve years old. They live in packs of 10, 20, and up to 50 females, led by a male, who takes the group towards the pastures and to places for rest at night. The males also play the role of watching over occupied areas in order to keep strangers away. The vicunas are markedly territorial and the males defend their space. When they are harassed they prefer to retreat to uninhabited slopes. The gestation period lasts 10 months and they usually only give birth to one offspring. Young males are expelled from the herd when they reach sexual maturity, as are semi-mature females.
Currently, the vicuna is distributed mainly in the tips of the departments of Ayacucho, Arequipa, Moquegua, and Tacna, and is categorized as a species in a vulnerable situation. The Altoantindo communities are in charge of their guardianship and the usufruct of the resources offered by their management
Distribution and Range
You can find these beautiful animals in the South American Andes, from Ecuador (where it has been reintroduced thanks to the government of Peru) to northeastern Chile.
Cover photo: Du Joao, Flickr