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                Huari, Vicugna, Vicu?a, Wik'u?a

                Vicugna vicugna
                Population size
                Life Span
                20-25 yrs
                TOP SPEED
                45 km/h
                35-65 kg
                75-85 cm
                1.5-1.6 m

                The Vicu?a is the smallest member of the family of camelids and is regarded as the alpaca's wild ancestor. It looks endearing, with its large, forward-facing eyes and small, wedge-shaped head with sharply triangular ears. The color of the head varies from reddish-brown to yellow, and its neck is pale orange. Its chest is covered with a silky white mane, but the fur of the rest of its body is soft and of the same length. It has a pale brown back and its underside and the inner parts of its flanks are dirty white.


                The vicu?a inhabits the Andes in southern Peru, north-western Argentina, western Bolivia, and northern Chile. It lives in mountainous areas above 3,200 meters, grazing on the short, tough vegetation of these semi-arid rolling grasslands, marshes and plains known as “antiplano” or “puna”. It inhabits areas where water is available for it to drink on a daily basis. The climate of its habitat is dry, and is hot during the day and cold at night.

                Vicuna habitat map


                Introduced Countries

                Climate zones

                Habits and Lifestyle

                Vicu?as are shy and alert animals that run away very rapidly. When they sense danger, they make a clear whistling noise. The dominant male warns the herd with its alarm call, and then positions himself between the threat and his herd. A single dominant male is the leader of a group of juveniles and females. He decides the range of the herd's territory and its membership, and drives other male vicu?as away from his group. Family groups are closed, excluding non-member males and sometimes even preventing young female animals from joining. A family group usually numbers 6-10 individuals, according to food availability in its territory. Vicu?as have a feeding territory as well as a separate territory for sleeping. They are diurnal animals, and at night go up to their sleeping territory at higher altitudes. Adults that do not lead a herd either become solitary, or they join a large herd of 30 to 150 individuals.

                Diet and Nutrition

                The vicu?a is a grazer only, eating mostly short perennial grasses.

                Mating Habits

                MATING BEHAVIOR
                PREGNANCY DURATION
                330-350 days
                BABY CARRYING
                1 fawn
                INDEPENDENT AGE
                12-18 months
                BABY NAME
                fawn, cria

                Vicu?as are polygynous, the dominant male mating with all mature females from his herd. The mating season begins in March or April. The gestation period is 330 to 350 days, and a single fawn is born. A fawn can stand just 15 minutes after being born. It remains close beside its mother for 8 months or more, continuing to suckle until the age of 10 months and becoming independent at around 12 to 18 months of age. Young males join bachelor groups and young females join a sorority. Females are sexually mature at 2 years and some are still reproducing at 19 years.


                Population threats

                Poaching takes place, the vicu?a’s coat and products being smuggled in large amounts to Asia and Europe. Habitat loss due to over-grazing from domestic livestock or human activities, such pollution of water sources and mining, is a further threat. Climate change may damage the delicate ecosystem where the vicu?a lives. A recent potential threat, in the Andes as well as worldwide, is the breeding of a vicu?a and alpaca hybrid (a pacovicu?a) for commercial purposes.

                Population number

                According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the vicu?a is 347,273 individuals, including estimates for specific regions: Argentina: 127,072 or 72,678 individuals; Bolivia: 62,869 individuals; Chile: 16,942 individuals; Ecuador: 2,683 individuals; Peru: 188,327 individuals. Vicu?as’ numbers are increasing today and they are classified as least concern (LC) on the list of threatened species.

                Fun Facts for Kids

                • The vicu?a has the honor to be pictured on the crest of the Peruvian flag.
                • The vicu?a has good eyesight and quite good hearing but it has a poor sense of smell.
                • Given the DNA evidence, it is now generally thought that alpacas have descended from vicu?as thousands of years ago.
                • During fighting, the male will usually spit at its opponent.
                • Vicu?as make a high soprano whistle as a warning call.
                • Vicu?a babies will often graze while they are lying down.
                • The male vicu?a feels most happy and at ease when surrounded by 5-15 females.
                • Vicu?as can live in the cold temperatures at night even though they have very thin wool. Their bodies can trap the sun's heat during the day in their skin to keep them warm during the night.


                1. Vicuna Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vicu%C3%B1a
                2. Vicuna on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22956/0

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