Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)
Species: V. vicugna
The vicuña (Vicugna vicugna) or vicugna is one of two wild South American camelids, along with the guanaco, which live in the high alpine areas of the Andes. It is a relative of the llama, and is now believed to share a wild ancestor with domesticated alpacas, which are raised for their fibre. Vicuñas produce small amounts of extremely fine wool, which is very expensive because the animal can only be shorn every 3 years and has to be caught from the wild. When knitted together, the product of the vicuña's fur is very soft and warm. It is understood that the Inca valued vicuñas highly for their wool, and that it was against the law for any but royalty to wear vicuña garments.
Both under the rule of the Inca and today, vicuñas have been protected by law. Before being declared endangered in 1974, only about 6,000 animals were left. Today, the vicuña population has recovered to about 350,000, and while conservation organizations have reduced its level of threat, they still call for active conservation programs to protect population levels from poaching, habitat loss, and other threats.
The vicuña is the national animal of Peru; its emblem is used on the Peruvian coat of arms representing the animal kingdom.