Facts about this animal
The vicugna is the smallest of the wild camelids. Its head-body length is 1.45 to 1.60 m, height at shoulder 76-86 cm, and body weight 45-55 kg. The vicugna is similar to the guanaco but, apart from being about 15 cm less tall, has a finer pelage and a conspicuous white or yellowish apron.
The lower incisors of the vicuna are very long and slender. They have open roots, and the vicugna is the only ungulate reputed to have continuously growing incisors.
The colour of the coat is a uniform rich cinnamon with or without a long white chest bib, depending on age and sex, and with whitish or underparts.
Vicugnas usually live in small herds of up to 20 animals and consisting of one male and several females with offspring, or in bachelor groups. Mating in the wild occurs in March and April. After a gestation period of 11 months one single foal is born, which weighs at birth 5-8 kg. The foal can stand and walk about 15 minutes after birth.
The vicugna is a grazer and its diet consists almost entirely of perennial grasses.
Did you know?
that the vicuna has the finest and most luxurious wool on all the earth? In former times killed for their wool, as of today vicunas are captured alive, shorn and released again. A vicuna will only produce about one pound of wool in a year.
|Name (Scientific)||Vicugna vicugna|
|CITES Status||Appendix II (some populations in Argentina and Chile, all populations in Bolivia and Peru), Appendix I (some populations in Argentina and Chile)|
|CMS Status||Appendix I (except Peruvian populations) Appendix II (Peruvian population only)|
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|Range||Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru|
|Habitat||Semiarid grasslands and plains at altitudes of 3,500-5,750 meters|
|Wild population||Approx. 347,273. The vast majority in Peru (IUCN Red List 2011)|
|Zoo population||202 (82.120) are registered by the International studbook (Dec 31, 2007).|
In the Zoo
How this animal should be transported
Vicugnas have good eyesight and, like sheep, can negotiate steep slopes, though ramps should be as shallow as possible. They load most easily in a bunch as a single animal will strive to rejoin the others. Whilst they are usually docile, they have an unnerving habit of spitting in self-defence. During transport they usually lie down. They frequently extend their front legs forward when lying, so gaps below partitions should be high enough so that their legs are not trapped when the animals rise.
For air transport, Container Note 73 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.
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Why do zoos keep this animal
Historically, the vicugna had a population of about 1 to 1.5 million animals. Following the destruction of the Inca Empire, vicunas began to be heavily hunted for wool and meat. In the 1950s, it was thought that there were still 400,000 animals around, but by 1967 only 10,000 survived. Zoos became concerned and wanted to engage in conservation breeding. Therefore, an International Studbook was established in 1969, and later an EEP was drawn up.
Thanks to good management by the Andean states, vicugna populations have recovered almost everywhere, and the species is now in the Lower Risk category of the IUCN Red List. The International Studbook is still maintained, but as of today the keeping of the species serves primarily educational purposes.