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vicuña

vicuña (vĬkōō´nyə, vĬkyōō´nə), wild South American hoofed mammal, Vicugna vicugna, the smallest member of the camel family. It is 30 in. (75 cm) high at the shoulder, with a long, slender neck and pale, fawn coloring. Vicuñas live in herds on high plateaus of the Andes, at altitudes of 14,000 to 18,000 ft (4,300–5,500 m); they feed on grasses and other vegetation.

Their fleece is exceptionally soft and silky, and in the time of the Incas was reserved for royal robes. The vicuña has never been successfully domesticated; wild herds were rounded up for shearing. Hunted to the verge of extinction for its wool and flesh, it is now protected and has recovered. Today wool is harvested from animals in the wild and others confined to ranches or enclosed ranges.

The vicuña is classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Camelidae.

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vicuña

vicuña Graceful, even-toed, hoofed South American mammal. The smallest member of the camel family, it is humpless and resembles the llama. Its silky coat is tawny brown with a yellowish bib under the neck. Vicuña wool was used by the Inca kings and is still expensive and rare. Height: 86cm (34in) at the shoulder; weight: 45kg (100lb). Family Camelidae; species Vicugna vicugna.

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vicuña

vi·cu·ña / vīˈk(y)oōnə və-; ˈkoōnyə/ • n. a mammal (Vicugna vicugna) of the camel family, a wild relative of the llama, inhabiting mountainous regions of South America and valued for its fine silky wool. ∎  cloth made from this wool, or an imitation of it.

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vicuna

vicuna S. Amer. animal allied to the llama XVII; vicuna cloth XIX. — Sp. vicun̄a (Pg. vicunha) — Quechua.

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vicuña

vicuña (Lama vicugna) See CAMELIDAE.

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vicuña

vicuñabelladonna, Connor, donna, goner, gonna, honour (US honor), Maradona, Mashona, O'Connor, Shona, wanna •corner, fauna, forewarner, Lorna, Morna, mourner, sauna, scorner, suborner, warner •softener • Faulkner •downer, uptowner •sundowner •Arizona, Barcelona, boner, condoner, corona, Cremona, Desdemona, donor, Fiona, groaner, Iona, Jonah, kroner, Leona, loaner, loner, moaner, Mona, owner, Pamplona, persona, postponer, Ramona, stoner, toner, Valona, Verona, Winona •landowner • homeowner • shipowner •coiner, joiner, purloiner •crooner, harpooner, lacuna, lacunar, lampooner, Luna, lunar, mizuna, Oona, oppugner, Poona, pruner, puna, schooner, spooner, Tristan da Cunha, tuna, tuner, Una, vicuña, yokozuna •honeymooner • Sunna • Brookner •koruna

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Vicuña

Vicuña

Vicugna vicugna

phylum: Chordata

class: Mammalia

order: Artiodactyla

family: Camelidae

status: Lower risk: conservation dependent, IUCN Endangered, ESA

range: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru

Description and biology

The smallest member of the camel family, the vicuña is closely related to the llama and the alpaca. The color of the vicuña's soft and silky coat is light brown above and off-white below. A patch of longer hair covers the animal's throat and chest, keeping it warm when it rests on the ground. The vicuña has a small head in comparison with its body, and its eyes and ears are small and prominent. Its neck is long.

An average vicuña measures 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8 meters) in length and weighs 88 to 110 pounds (40 to 50 kilograms). It stands 30 to 40 inches (76 to 102 centimeters) tall at its shoulder. It feeds primarily on grasses, mosses, and other vegetation. Pumas and Andean foxes are its main predators.

Vicuña are social animals. They form family groups consisting of a dominant male and a number of adult females with their young. The male defends a feeding and sleeping territory averaging 17 to 74 acres (7 to 30 hectares). Those males unable to defend a territory (and thus breed with females) live a solitary life or join other males to form bachelor groups.

Male and female vicuña mate in March or April. A female gives birth to one infant after a gestation (pregnancy) period of 330 to 350 days. The young vicuña nurses for up to ten months and becomes independent after about a year.

Vicuñas are highly communicative, signaling one another with body postures, ear and tail placement, and numerous other small movements. Their vocalizations include an alarm call—a high pitched whinny—that alerts the herd to danger. They also emit a soft humming sound to signal bonding or greeting and a range of guttural sounds that communicate anger and fear. "Orgling" is their most unique noise. This male-only, melodic mating sound attracts females.

The vicuña is known for its wool—often said to be among the finest in the world. One thing that makes the wool of the vicuña so popular is its warmth. Vicuña wool is softer, lighter and warmer than any other wool. The vicuña will only produce about one pound of wool in a year (as opposed to the alpaca, which can produce fifteen pounds in a similar time period). This, of course, adds to the rarity of the wool.

Habitat and current distribution

The vicuña is found in the central portion of the Andes Mountains in the South American countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. Biologists (people who study living organisms) estimate the current population to be over 100,000.

The vicuña prefers to inhabit semiarid (semidry) grasslands and plateaus at elevations of 9,850 to 15,100 feet (3,000 to 4,600 meters). Groups spend the day in one feeding territory, then move at night to a territory at a higher elevation to sleep.

History and conservation measures

Because of its lustrous wool the vicuña has been sought since the days of the Inca, native Quechuan people of Peru who established an empire in South America in the fifteenth

century. The Inca pursued the animal not to kill it, but to shear its wool, which was then made into certain types of ritual clothing. When Spanish explorers (conquistadors) conquered the Inca in the sixteenth century, they began to hunt the vicuña without care.

Before they became the target of hunters, as many as several million vicuña may have existed. By the time of the conquistadors, the animals' population had been reduced to less than 500,000. By 1965, only 6,500 vicuña survived.

Although international treaties now ban the taking of the vicuña, illegal hunting is still a problem in parts of the animal's range, particularly in Peru and Bolivia. However, the majority of vicuña currently live on protected reserves.

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