Vicuñas on the Ausangate Trek
Vicuñas on the Ausangate Trek and Rainbow Mountain Hike
Vicuñas on the Ausangate Trek is a species that belongs to the South American camelids; It is found in greater quantity in the Peruvian Andes. In addition to Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and Chile. In the Cusco region, these animals are found in large numbers; on the Ausangate region, Rainbow Mountain and Sibinacocha lake.
The vicuña is the smallest of the four South American camelids and is also the wild ancestor of the alpaca.
The vicuñas weigh between 40 and 50 kilos, they have a length of about 80 cm. Their color is light reddish brown, they have long and thin legs; with a special padding for walking on rocky soils. Its fiber is considered the finest in the world, it measures 15 microns in diameter. its fur is extremely dense; this with the aim of protecting the animal from the cold, the rain and the wind.
Adaptation and survival of vicuñas on the Ausangate trek
These animals have notably adapted to the Andean pastures and steppes. Their padded legs do not erode the soil and are considered low impact grazers; because their food tends to grow rapidly. Unlike their ancestors the camels; vicuñas need to drink water daily; reason why they are always grazing in places near streams, lagoons or wetlands.
Among its main food competitors; there are guanacos, vizcachas, armadillos, wild rabbits. And its main predators are foxes, pumas, pack of dogs and the scavenger, condor.
Social organization of vicuñas
These animals are very territorial, their organization is based on family groups and singles groups. A family group is generally composed of one male, three to four females, and two young.
At the limits of the territories that each family occupies there are several places; where vicuñas accumulate their feces, which added to the presence of a territorial male are a signal that keeps intruders away.
The defense of the females is given by patrolling their territory or by direct fights with other males.
Through the accumulation of feces the males recognize if there are females in heat in their territory; since the urine of these females has a very particular smell. In these cases, after smelling the faeces and urine, the males develop a behavior that; to human eyes, is very funny: they turn their heads up, and open and close their mouths several times. This behavior is called the Flehmen reflex, by which the pheromones are sent to the Jacobson’s organ.
Females, that live in family groups, become pregnant one week after giving birth; they keep two young at the same time. The one that will gestate for 11 months and the one that is breastfeeding for 8 months; because of this they are constantly eating.
These females are all the time transforming the energy of the grass into milk for the calves already born, and into food and nutrients for those that are in gestation and for their own maintenance and activity.
Protection of vicuñas on the Ausangate Trek
For the residents of the area close to the trails; of the Ausangate Trek, Rainbow Mountain and Lake Sibinacocha. Vicuñas are the cattle of mother earth: Pachamama.
The fiber of the vicuña was highly valued since pre-Inca times. In the Inca period it is thought; that there may have been three million heads. However, after centuries of hunting, its population fell dramatically. By 1950 there was only a population of 10,000 vicuñas, in all the countries where it lives.
Peru began to work hard for the protection and conservation of this species; communal, regional and national laws were enacted.
Currently vicuñas on the Ausangate Trek are considered a species that is not in danger of extinction; but that depends a lot on conservation.
Commercialization of vicuña fiber.
The vicuña is represented in the Peruvian coat of arms and is the country’s national animal.
Is prohibited the export of this animal outside of Peru. The international commercialization of textiles made with this fiber, is officially promoted; as well as the export of its fiber is allowed under regulation.
Being excessively expensive the meter of this textile; few are the people who can afford this luxury. Which can cost up to 3,000 dollars in the European market.
On the 6 day Ausangate Trek, we´ll have the chance to touch vicuña fiber; without hunting or hurting them.