Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Vicuña

Vicuña (Vicugna vicugna) are pretty adorable members of the camelid family, and are actually the smallest members as well.  They are thought to be the wild ancestors of the alpaca.  Like the alpaca, it has a long neck and legs with large, forward-facing eyes.  Their standard coloration is a pale brown back with a dirty white underside.  The results of all of this?  Adorableness.

Vicuña live in groups, either family groups, bachelor groups, or individual males.  Family groups consist of females and juveniles with one dominant male.  He protects the group and defends two territories- an eating territory and a sleeping territory at  higher elevation.  The higher elevation is better protected from predators and so they spend their time migrating between the two locations.  If the group is threatened the male will give a high whistling call which alerts the herd to run.

Vicuña are classified as Least Threatened by the IUCN.  They do face danger from poachers and ranchers, howeverPoachers hunt the vicuña for their fibre, which is smuggled in large quantities.  Ranchers believe the vicuña pose a threat to livestock and will kill them if they see them.  Habitat loss and climate change are another two threats to their populations as they live in delicate climates.

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