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V Is For Vicuna

Updated on August 17, 2014


The vicuña is related to alpacas and llamas, and is native to Chile. Its valuable but slow-growing fleece has led it to become endangered. The fleece is often felted, making a type of wool used for coats and other outerwear.

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Vicuñas are members of the Camelidae family, which makes them related to llamas, alpacas and the guanaco. The vicuña is among the smaller members of this group, coming in at just under three feet tall at the shoulder. The vicuñas teeth grow continuously, like with many rodents. They have to gnaw and eat to wear them down.

Their native habitat are the Andean mountains of Chile. Much like other mountain goats and sheep, their hooves give them sure footing on rocky slopes and their wooly coats keep them warm even at high elevations. It's fleece can be shorn and spun into a fine wool, but only once every two to three years.

These animals were declared endangered in 1974, as the population had dropped to only about 6,000 animals! Their populations have been restored so that they now number in the 100,000s which has led some environmental groups to classify them as protected, but agencies such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature still consider them to be endangered.

What do Vicuñas eat?

The vicuña is a vegetarian. They graze on grass and chew their cub like cows do.

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