"At Night" by Thabiso Mhlaba (digital)

I initially decided to paint the Vicuna because it looked cute.They’re very precious and fragile looking animal. It struck me that this is an important aspect of nature. We exist in a very delicate balance and if we don’t stop and recognize it for what it is we might destroy it. I think Vicuna’s are a perfect example of the tenuous relationship we have with the world around us.
— Thabiso Mhlaba

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Also known as huari, vicugna, wikuna.


South America is home to the Vicuña. They live in the very high regions of the Andes, and the largest number (80%) live in Peru. They are found throughout Bolivia, northwest Argentina and the Northern part of Chile. 


Family Life

Vicuñas live in herds that have a dominant male and up to 15 females, including their young.


Approximately 15-20 years.

Hunting Habits/Diet

The Vicuña grazes on the short, tough vegetation of the semi-arid rolling grasslands, plains and marshes. They are often seen licking rocks to get enough salt, and will consume salt water. They can go for several days at a time without any water.


There are about 125,000 vicuñas in the world.

Fun Facts

  • The vicuña's extremely fine fiber, highly regarded by the Andean cultures, was used exclusively to clothe royalty.

  • The vicuña was considered a sacred animal by pre-Hispanic cultures. It was sheared and set free in the celebration of the Chaccu, a centuries-old ceremony which is still carried out today by the rural people of the Andes.

  • The vicuña is the national animal of Peru and appears in the Peruvian coat of arms.

Why Are They Endangered?

The vicuña was almost hunted to extinction for its beautiful, soft wool. Poaching vicuñas still takes place, and vicuña fiber and products are smuggled in large quantities to Europe or Asia.  Habitat loss poses a further threat and climate change may have a damaging effect on the delicate ecosystem the vicuña inhabit. At the time they were declared endangered in 1974, only about 6,000 animals were left. Today, the vicuña population has recovered to about 350,000.


Least Concern