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  • Vicuña is a monotypic genus of the smallest cloven-hoofed mammals from the family of camelids and its suborder Tylopoda. In spite this genus sometimes is opposed by llamas and camels, the ability of interbreeding with llamas and guanacos affirms its close relationship with these species.

    Vicuña’s thin body has a length of 125-150 cm, shoulders reach from 70 to 110 cm and a tail length is 150-250 mm. The weight varies from 35 to 65 kg. The ears are long, narrow and pointed, the head is round, eyes are large and expressive. Although vicuña is a guanaco’s relative, its relative weight of brain is more than guanaco has, the head is smaller and ears are longer. This animal differs by grace due to its long limbs and long neck. The vicuña’s unique feature are the lower incisors that have the only one side covered with enamel and continuously grow like in rodents.

    As a result of heights adaptation vicuña’s heart is larger than have the other mammals of the same size, and blood contains increased amount of oxygen and hemoglobin. This cloven-hoofed animal has well developed sight and hearing.

    Vicuña’s hair is soft, quite dense and homogeneous. The colors of head and neck have reddish-brown hue, a silky white wool of his chest grows up to 20-30 cm, forming a “bib”. The underside parts of body and interior parts of the legs are off-white, the outer side of back and legs are reddish-brown.

    The vicuña’s habitat is the Andes of southern Peru, western Bolivia, northwestern Argentina, northern Chile and Ecuadorian Andes. The largest population is in Peru. Vicuña is the national animal of this country, its image is on the Peruvian state emblem.

    Vicuña prefers dry and cold climate and place with enough water. They are common at coated by hard short vegetation arid plains and hilly fields at the altitude of 3500-5750 m.

    Animals’ menu consists of low grasses growing among stones. Vicuña often licks the salt-rich calcareous rocks and stones, as well as drinks salt water.

    These shy and attentive day animals are capable to develop their speed up to 47 km / hr on hills, situated at the altitude of 4500 m. Comparing with other ungulates, vicuña’s movements are very graceful. In danger moments it produces a loud whistling sound, alerting the herd. Animals live in family groups (average amount is 6-10 individuals); the buck heads a group of females and juveniles, and strangers are expelled from the territory, which size depends on the amount of food (an average of 18 square kilometers). Team members demonstrate subordination to the buck, putting their necks on his back. The family territory is divided into sleeping area and a pasture where the latrine (up to 2 m in width) is – these middens are identifying marks of the family territory. Adult males that are not the herd leaders live alone, or form a group without hierarchy (from 30 to 150 individuals).

    The breeding season starts in early March and ends during the April rains. After a gestation period that lasts about 11 months, the only calf appears, its weight is 4 – 6 kg. The kid can move by himself in 15 minutes after the birth. He uses mother’s milk staying with her for 8-10 months. Dominant buck expels out of the herd young females of their age of 10 months, and males – at the age of 9 months. Young females reached sexual maturity by age of 2 years often are taken to another group. Vicuñas live up to 15-20 years in the wild nature.

    Although till recently it was impossible to tame the vicuna, now it’s believable that this animal is the ancestor of domesticated alpacas. Vicuña’s thin and warm wool is highly valued and is expensive because the animal’s cutting is possible only every 3 years. For a long time the population of vicuñas decreased because of uncontrolled hunting. In 1974 the size of the population reached 6000, but now the animals are protected by law and the population is almost restored.