The Vicuña 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.
Diurnal animals are active during the daytime, with a period of sleeping or other inactivity at night. The timing of activity by an animal depends ...
A herbivore is an animal anatomically and physiologically adapted to eating plant material, for example, foliage, for the main component of its die...
In zoology, a graminivore (not to be confused with a granivore) is an herbivorous animal that feeds primarily on grass. Graminivory is a form of g...
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, snails), as compared with aquatic animals, which liv...
A cursorial organism is one that is adapted specifically to run. An animal can be considered cursorial if it has the ability to run fast (e.g. chee...
Congregatory animals tend to gather in large numbers in specific areas as breeding colonies, for feeding, or for resting.
Among animals, viviparity is the development of the embryo inside the body of the parent. The term 'viviparity' and its adjective form 'viviparous'...
Precocial species are those in which the young are relatively mature and mobile from the moment of birth or hatching. Precocial species are normall...
Grazing is a method of feeding in which a herbivore feeds on plants such as grasses, or other multicellular organisms such as algae. In agriculture...
A territory is a sociographical area that which an animal consistently defends against the conspecific competition (or, occasionally, against anima...
Polygyny is a mating system in which one male lives and mates with multiple females but each female only mates with a single male.
A herd is a social grouping of certain animals of the same species, either wild or domestic. The form of collective animal behavior associated with...
NoNot a migrant
Animals that do not make seasonal movements and stay in their native home ranges all year round are called not migrants or residents.
Vicuñas occur in the Andes in southern Peru, north-western Argentina, western Bolivia, and northern Chile. They live in mountainous areas, with cold-dry weather. Their habitat is dominated by xerophytic vegetation and large areas of bare ground with semi-arid rolling grasslands, marshes, and plains known as “antiplano” or “puna”. Vicunas are found in areas where water is available for them to drink on a daily basis.
Vicuñas 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 vicuñas 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. Vicuñas 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 join a large herd of 30 to 150 individuals.
Vicuñas 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.
Poaching takes place, the vicuña’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, pollution of water sources and mining, is a further threat. Climate change may damage the delicate ecosystem where the vicuña lives. A recent potential threat, in the Andes as well as worldwide, is the breeding of a vicuña and alpaca hybrid (a pacovicuña) for commercial purposes.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the vicuña 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. Vicuñas’ numbers are increasing today and they are classified as least concern (LC) on the list of threatened species.