Vicuna Research for the Apparel Industry
Vicuna   Textile Industry Research  Fashion Industry Education

Information in this section has been graciously donated to Apparel Search by The National Partnership of Peru's Vicuna Breeders (SNV).  The SNV's fundamental aims are to protect, preserve, manage and utilize in a rational and organized manner the vicu a and guanaco species and to promote the sustainable development of the farmers communities of the high Andean plateaus of Peru. For more information about Vicuna from peru, click here to go to the SNV web site.

Classification of the Vicuna fiber according to the size

Classification of the Vicuna fiber according to its condition

South American Camelids POPULATION













Technical information of the Vicuna fiber.

After having been sheared, the Vicuna fiber is classified as described next.

Classification of the Vicuna fiber according to the size.

I.- Long Commercial fiber:  It is the fiber that has a length of 2 or more centimeters and include two different types:

            Type A with a diameter of 12 microns

            Type B with a diameter of 13 microns

In the first case, the fiber stems from the back of the animal whereas, in the second case, the fiber comes from its flanks.

II.- Short fiber:  This fiber has a length of less than 2 centimeters.  It is obtained from the classification done during the dehairing phase.

Classification of the Vicuna fiber according to its condition

I.-Dirty fiber:  This fiber is the one obtained after the shearing of the animal.

II.- Dehaired fiber:  The dehairing consists in eliminating broadly the hair, the plant's rests and the inert material remaining in the fiber.

III.-  Clean fiber:  The cleaning consists in eliminating completely all the hair remaining in the fiber.

South American Camelids

The Camelids appeared in North America during the Pliocene at the end of which they migrated to Africa and Asia through the Bering Strait some 3 million years ago. They evolved there to form the Camelini tribe, including the modern Bactriano camel of Asia with 2 humps and the dromedary, or camel with one hump, located in the Near East and North Africa. Similarly, the Camelids migrated south through the Panama isthmus and spread in South America where the Lamini tribe was formed.  Finally, the ancestral Camelids disappeared in North America.

Nowadays, The South American Camelids are represented by the Vicuna Vicugna Vicugna (with 2 sub-species: the first one, namely the southern Vicuna V.v.vicugna, is located south of the latitude 18S, and is bigger and clearer than the northern Vicuna, the V.v. mensalis), the Guanaco Lama guanico, which would be the ancestor of the domestic lama, the Lama Glama, and of the Alpaca, Lama pacas.  South American Camelids belong to the Artiodactyla order, sub-order Ruminantia, family Camelidae.


It is estimated that the worldwide population of South American Camelids amounts to some 7.5 millions, that are mainly located in four Latin American countries.  Some 90% of these animals include domestic species (Lamas and Alpacas), whereas the other 10% are made up of wild species (Vicuna and Guanaco).

In the year 2000, out of the total in the continent, some 90% of the Alpacas and 64% of the Vicunas were located in Peru, whereas 60% of the Llamas were in Bolivia and 95% of the Guanacos in Argentina.

Approximated population of South American Camelids (*)

Camelids distribution in Latin America (*)

Camelids population in Latin America (*)

Camelids distribution in Peru (*)

 The Vicuna

Vicugna Vicugna Vicugna


The Vicuna (Vicugna vicugna vicugna), a beautiful wild animal, is the smallest species of the four South American Camelids and its habitat is constituted by the High Andes territory at an altitude of 3,800 to 5,000 meters.  This territory includes, in Peru, 16 departments (namely: Ancash, Apurimac, Arequipa, Ayacucho, Cajamarca, Cusco, Hunuco, Huancavelica, Ica, Junn, La Libertad, Lima, Moquegua, Pasco, Puno, Tacna) in which is concentrated the rural population living in the poverty and even extreme poverty.

 According to the last National Vicunas Census 2000-CONACS, the Vicunas population amounted to 118,678 animals on an area of 6,660,998 hectares in the frame of the Nine Regional Association, representing some 60% of worldwide Vicunas population.

Within the Inca Era, the average Vicunas population amounted to 2 million animals thanks to the fact that it was managed in an appropriate way.  Its utilization was narrowed, because it was considered as a sacred animal, and limited to the Chaccu practice (capture) with a strong ritual content.

During the conquest and the Vice-Kingdom, began an indiscriminating depredation due to the fineness of its fiber and, in spite of the numerous legal measures passed between 1825 (Bolivar) until 1962, the Vicunas killing went on at an accelerated rhythm mainly due to the international demand of its fiber.

 Only since the 1960's, a movement aimed at the preservation of flora and fauna has begun.  In 1966, an Agreement was signed between the Lucanas Community and the Forestry, Hunting and Fauna Service, which permitted the creation of the Pampa Galeras Refuge.

 Since 1972, on the basis of the Cooperation Agreement between Peru and Germany, technical and financial support could be obtained to implement the project named Repopulation and Rational Management of the Wild Vicuna.  Thereby, the National Reserve of Pampa Galeras became an experimental center for all the technology related to the Vicuna not only for Peru but also for all the other countries possessing this precious species.


The Vicuna lives in the High Andes at an altitude of 3000 to 4000 meters.  The Vicunas population is currently spread between 930's and 2900's in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru. 

It is interesting to stress on the fact that more than the half of the total of Vicunas living in those countries is located in Peru.  However, its preservation in those countries has to face, nowadays, a series of difficulties.  The Vicuna in Argentina is gradually recovering in spite of the problems related to furtive hunting.  In Bolivia, the population is unstable due to the lag of continuity in the protection policy established a few years ago.  In Chile, on the other hand, the Vicunas population is clearly recovering and the threat of  its disappearance has recently been moved away.

Distribution of the Vicuna in Latin America (*)

The worldwide population is currently stable but could rapidly decrease if an end was put to the conservation's efforts.


The Vicuna is a gregarious and territorial animal whose social organization can be divided in three groups:

I.- The Family Group

This group is made up of a male, approximately 6 or more females and their offspring of the current year.  It is a territorial family group in which the male is the one defending the territory against other family males or young males.  At the age of 8 months, the male offspring is expelled from the group and, as this occurs in several family groups, those animals gather and make up the males

II.-The herds

Those herds, which can reach up to 200 members in the highly populated regions, are made up of young males that still haven't reached their reproductive age.  The members have no leader and migrate through wide areas in continuous conflict with the family males, which they will finally replace in the family group.

III.- The loners

  Generally, the loners are old males removed from their family group and their territory.


The Vicuna gestation lasts eleven months and the female gives birth to only one animal during the period lasting from February to April.  The frequency of births is higher during the sunny days between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. due to the fact that the Vicuna is unable to lick its offspring; as a result, this latter must dry out in the natural environment.

The Vicuna is an herbivorous animal living mainly on small seeds of the High Andes.

The Vicuna is perfectly adapted to the High Andes ecology because of its really fine fiber which keeps the animal warm, allowing it to resist the lowest temperatures.

The Vicuna has a brown color and holds some 14 million red blood cells per cubic millimeter, allowing it to harness the rare oxygen of the High Andes.  Its hard paws contain small cushions and are well-adapted to rocky grounds.  Their teeth continually grow until they re getting on, preventing them from premature damages due to hard and dry grass.   They live in an open atmosphere and their best defense against their enemies is to escape since they can reach a speed of about 45 Kms per hour.

The Vicuna predators are the pumas and the foxes.  The Condor, as far as he is concerned, eats dead Vicunas but also attacks weak and ill animals.  In normal conditions the Vicunas population can reach a net annul raise of 17% on average.

The Vicuna, as a wild animal, shows some clear advantages in comparison with the domestic species in our country, as Peru possesses the endemic genetic material which makes genetic improvement techniques unnecessary.  Furthermore, the species offers the opportunity to be handled in its wild state, with low costs of infrastructure.


The most important threats against Vicunas survival include illegal hunting, the increase of the competition with domestic Lamas and Alpacas for pasture lands, and the lack of funds to develop preservation activities on a long term basis.  Illegal hunting has increased in Bolivia and Peru, overwhelming the control's possibilities of the authorities, particularly in the zones affected by the guerrilla.  It is needed that the populations living in the Vicunas
territories get conscious of the benefits that long term preservation of the species can hold.

 The bad weather, the pumas predation, among others, are also considered as brakes for the reappearance of Vicunas in some areas.


Category     Name      Description
Kingdom Animalia

 Animals: Multi-cellular systems living by ingestion

Sub-Kingdom Metazoos  
Phylum Chordata

Cordados: Animals with spinal cord or nervous system

Subphylum   Vertebrata  Vertebrates: Cordados with a spinal column
Upper Class Tetrapodos Vertebrates with four paws
Class     Mamalia      Mammals: they have hair on their skin
Sub-Class    Eutheria    
Order   Artiodactyla Mammals with even hooves
Sub-Order Tilopoda  
Family Camelidae Camels
Tribe      Lamini    South Amercian Camelids
Type   Vicugna    Vicu
Species Vicugna  Vicu
Sub-species   I.   Vicugna Vicugna Vicugna  
   II.  Vicugna Vicugna Mensalis  

The Guanaco.

Lama Guanicoe


The Guanaco is considered to be a wild species, like the Vicuna.  Some scientists think that Lamas and Alpacas are races derived from the Guanaco.  Other consider that they're different species.  Actually, we can say that both theories are valid.

In the natural environment, those animals make up herds of 5 to 10 females, a male and their offspring.  The period in which the Guanacos are in heat corresponds to the southern summer, between November and February.  The gestation period lasts eleven months. 

The Guanaco belongs to the South American Camelids and is a little bigger than the Vicuna.  This animal could be classified in four sub-species, that are described next:

-         The L.g.guanacos, living in Argentina and Chile to the south of the 38 S.

-         The L.g.huanacus, existing only in Chile

-         The L.g.cacsilensis can be found in the High Andes of Peru, Bolivia and the North-East part of Chile.

-         The L.g.voglii only lives between the 21 S and the 31 S of the Argentinean Andes


The species can be found throughout the Andean chain of mountains, from the North of Peru (8 S) to the Earth of Fire (53 S), and also in the Argentinean Patagonia.  In the old days, its territory was spreading further up north and, in the south, it included Paraguay, Uruguay and the South of Brazil. Nowadays, those animals are situated in cold regions but they are considered  to be animals living in dry climates, and therefore indifferent to the temperature. In Bolivia, the current distribution spreads from the 19 S to the 22 S and from the 62 W to the 65 W.  The species lives there at an altitude of 300 to 3800 meters high. In Chile, an important Guanaco population lives in the Earth of Fire whereas another lives all along the Argentinean border.   In Peru, Guanacos spread out in 5 departments, mainly to the south of the country.  The estimated population for those countries is the following:

Guanacos distribution in Latin America (*)

The distribution and density of population of the guanacos in South America haven't been accurately determined up to now.  However, current datas point out that both factors are considered to be stable even if they are likely to decrease rapidly.


The main threat against Guanacos survival comes from the intense commercial hunting and the fact that Chilean and Argentinean cattle's breeders are opposed to Guanacos because they compete with their cattle regarding food and water, and, furthermore, because the Guanaco is considered to be a carrier of illnesses. THE GUANACO's TAXONOMY

Category      Name Description
Kingdom  Animalia

Animals: Multi-cellular systems living by ingestion

Sub-Kingdom  Metazoos  
Phylum Chordata     

Cordados: Animals with spinal cord or nervous system

Subphylum  Vertebrata Vertebrates: Cordados with a spinal column
Upper Class Tetrapodos Vertebrates with four paws
Class          Mamalia Mammals: they have hair on their skin
Sub-Class   Eutheria  
Order  Artiodactyla  Mammals with even hooves
Sub-Order Tilopoda  
Family   Camelidae Camels
Tribe     Lamini   South Amercian Camelids
Type  Llama  Llama, Alpaca and Guanaco
Species Vicugna   Guanaco
Sub-species  I.   Lama Guanicoe Guanicoe  
  II.  Lama Guanicoe Huanacus  
  III.  Lama Guanicoe Casilensis  
  IV.  Lama Guanicoe Voglii

Hope this page has been helpful to you.

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