Peru is always ready to surprise you with interesting things, from its thousand-year-old Incan ruins to its mist-covered cloud forest and the world’s most diverse wildlife. With all of that, you might be wondering what animal represents Peru?
It is none other than the Vicuña. It appears on the Peruvian coat of arms and is widely regarded as the country’s national symbol.
Vicuñas are camelid mammals that are related to llamas and are thought to be the ancestors of alpacas. They are reared for their coats. So, let us learn more about this amazing animal, Vicuña, including its habitat, diet, importance, and much more!
Vicuñas are adorable creatures with long necks and soft and smooth wool coats.Vicuñas are the smallest members of the camelid family. They weigh 35-65 kilograms and standing 75-85 centimetres tall as adults. Their coat is tan brown in the back and white near the upper parts of the legs, neck, throat, and chest.
Vicuñas live in the central Andes regions of South America, usually at elevations between 3200-4800 meters above sea level. They are commonly found in Peru, as well as Argentina, Chile and Bolivia. They feed on the grass during the day and stay on the freezing slopes at night! But don’t worry, Vicuñas wool coats are well-adapted to drastic temperature changes.
It is not wrong to say that Vicuñas are introverted shy animals! Yes, you might encounter 3-4 Vicuñas when you are in Peru, but be cautious if you plan on touching them. It is better to observe from afar if you are not near a Vicuña with a local guide. Vicuñas usually are in herds that are made up of 1 dominant male and 10-15 females along with their young. As mentioned before, Vicuñas like to eat grass, but they can be frequently seen licking rocks that are rich in salt content.
Vicuñas are regarded as one of Peru’s most important animals. They have long been revered by the Incas, who compared them to gods. Vicuñas were released back into their natural environments after the wool was collected for fabric. But because these animals were revered, there were weavers specifically chosen for this job, known as “the virgins of the sun.”
But it wasn’t until the Spanish arrived in Peru that the Vicuñas’ nightmares began. In the 1960s, the Spanish hunted the Vicunas until their numbers were reduced to 6000 individuals. Vicuñas were then declared endangered in 1974, and the trade in vicuna wool was prohibited. Because of global conservation efforts, there are now over 350,000 Vicun1as in the world.
However, their soft warm wool, which is the most expensive type in the world, is still used to make. The wool is popular due to its warmth, and is used for apparel such as socks, sweaters, blankets etc due to its fine strands of about 12 microns!