Course Course Description
Vicugnas areanimals belonging to the class Mammalia, Family Camelidae, genusVicugna and the species Vicugna Vicugna. The animal is commonly knownas Vicuña, Vicugna or Vicuna. Scientifically, the species is knownas Vicugna vicugna. Previous statistics on wild animals depictedVicuna as endangered due to their overall population sizes1.However, after conservation programs and tight control as thenational and international markets, the population of the speciesstarted to rise again. The animals still face a lot of dangers whichincludes uncertainties towards the climatic changes, poaching,economic interests that have led to their hybridizing and theovergrazing of grasslands by domestic livestock. That said, it isevident that the species needs protection to ensure that it is notendangered again.
PhysicalDescription of Vicunas
The Vicunasare the smallest species of the camel family, and they arecharacterized by a height of 138 to 151 cm, a shoulder length of 86to 96 cm and a weight of 45 to 55 kg2.They have an overall color of red brown with the inside of the legsand the underparts as white. The base of the neck and the chest arealso white with a mane of silky white hairs that may be around 8 to12 inches in length. The vicuna is a lean animal with a stretchedneck and thin limbs3.It also has a small head and small triangular ears. They areeven-toed with two toes on every foot and supports all the weight bythe hoofs. There is a considerable difference between them and otheranimals of their family that is alpaca, llama and wild guanaco. Inaddition, the vicuna has lower incisors that are always growing andhas an enamel on only one side. In some cases, the vicunas lack thecanines in the lower jaw and the premolars are separated from theother teeth. There is no major difference between the male and femalevicunas.
The vicunasmate in March and April every year. This depicts that the females canonly have one calf each year. Their copulation lasts for aboutfifteen minutes, and they mate when lying down on their chests. Afterconception, the female experiences a 330 to 350 days of gestationperiod where it gives birth to mostly a single offspring of 4-6kg inFebruary or in March4.An interesting fact about the vicugnas is like unlike many mammals,the females give birth when standing and they do not have eat nor dothey lick their offspring5.The female mates soon after giving birth and starts the gestation forthe next offspring. After birth, the young vicuna becomes mobileafter 15 minutes and stays close to its mother where it lactatesuntil it reaches ten months. The dominant male in the herd expels theyoung females at this stage where they are accepted in another herd.The young males are treated more harshly where they are dischargedbetween four to nine months where they formed bachelor groups andeither lure the females into forming a group or dethrone a leader ofan existing herd. Vicunas are capable of mating when they reach twoyears and can remain productive for nineteen years6.When in the wild, the vicugnas can live to up to twenty years andwhen in captivity, their lifespan increases by four years.
SurvivalHabits of the Vicunas
The vicunafeeds on grass that is low on the ground, and usually, the grass isin clumps. They prevent the problem of overgrazing by refraining frommoving around when feeding. They also lick rocks to get enough salt,and they can also go for a few days without water. They are part of afood chain which also involves predators such as foxes and humanbeings, and this shows that they should be alert at all times toensure their survival.
The vicugnasare very alert and swift in movement. They can run for 50km/hr. andthis is aided by their heart which is bigger than that of othermammals of the same size7.In addition, when compared with other mammals their movement is moregraceful. When facing danger, the vicugnas make a clear whistlingsound which is used to warn others of impending danger and also toask for help. A herd usually consists of a dominant male and severalfemales with their offspring. The male protects the herd from danger,and when there is a threat, the make places itself between the threatand the members of the herd. The male keeps the members of the herdsafe by keeping them close together. The group members show theirreverence to the leader by laying their necks over their backs. Thefamily groups are closed societies, and at times they can evenprevent young females from joining the group and the average size ofthe family is between 8 to 12 individuals depending on the feedingconditions experienced in the territory. They have a differentfeeding and sleeping territory to enhance their protection.
GeographicalLocation of the Vicugnas
In the pastthe vicuna was found in Peru where the natives known as Inca wouldround them up every 3 to five years and shear them then release themafterward. However, this changed after Peru was conquered by theSpanish and the vicugnas migrated to their areas as they escapedexcessive poaching by human beings. The vicunas are found insemi-arid grasslands and plains at altitudes of 3500 to 5750 meters8.The climate is usually dry and cold. Currently, vicugnas are locatedin the Andes which is in the south of Peru, northern Chile, WesternBolivia and Northwestern Argentina.
Why theVicunas are endangered
Vicugna hasbeen classified as endangered by much wild Research Centre. Anearlier stated the animals were in large numbers during the periodwhere the Incas, who were the natives of Peru, lived in the area.However, after the Spanish conquerors settled in the area, the numberof animals reduced from more than a million to only 60009.Through the efforts to conserve the animals by the governmentagencies, the number have risen to about four hundred thousandalthough some researchers are not certain of the exact statistics.The main problem experienced by vicugnas is poaching by humans ascontrolling the vast areas occupied by the vicunas has beenchallenging due to the existence of long international borders.Although there are laws that are meant to protect vicugnas such asthe prohibition of commercialization, hunting, transportation andmanufacturing of vicuna`s products, the law enforcers are not awareof the legislation concerning their protection, and this leads todifferent interpretations of the law and light punishment to theoffenders. Vicugnas also face endangerments due to the climaticchanges have made the habitable areas of the vicugnas become morearid and this limits their access to food and water. Moreover, humanactivities have only served to reduce the population of the vicugnasthey have been losing their habitation to people activities such asmining, pollution of rivers and sources of water, and the overgrazingof the livestock.
That said,effective measures should be put in place to ensure that thebeautiful vicugnas will not be extinct. One of the application shouldbe to control the sales of the vicugnas products in and out of thecountry. The products include wool and meat products. There are legalmarkets for vicuna`s wool but through corruption, the markets lacktransparencies thus hunting more vicunas. The markets should becarefully observed to ensure that they do not compromise on thesafety of vicugnas. In addition, human activities should be regulatedin a way that they do not affect the ecosystem of vicugnassignificantly. Even though scientists argue that placing them inconservatives will affect their natural way of life, the move will beimportant as it will ensure a rise in the population.
Vicugnas arethe smallest animals under the camel`s family and they are found inPeru, Argentina, and Chile. They have a long gestation period andtheir position in the food chains makes them more susceptible toextinction when compared with other animals. It had been consideredendangered as people hunted it for meat and its fine wool. Thegovernment stepped in and introduced conservative measures, and thisbrought about the population increase. However, several statisticsshows that the animals are still at risk and that more effectivemeasures should be put in place to ensure their survival.
Mosca Torres,M. Eugenia, et al. "Vigilance behavior of the year-roundterritorial vicuna (Vicugna vicugna) outside the breeding season:Influence of group size, social factors and distance to a watersource." BEHAVIOURALPROCESSES 113.1(2015): 163-171.
1 Mosca Torres, M. Eugenia, et al. "Vigilance behavior of the year-round territorial vicuna (Vicugna vicugna) outside the breeding season: Influence of group size, social factors and distance to a water source." BEHAVIORAL PROCESSES 113.1 (2015): 163-171.
2 Mosca Torres et al. BEHAVIORAL PROCESSES 163-171.
3 Mosca Torres, M. Eugenia, et al. "Vigilance behavior of the year-round territorial vicuna (Vicugna vicugna) outside the breeding season: Influence of group size, social factors and distance to a water source." BEHAVIORAL PROCESSES 113.1 (2015): 163-171.
4 Mosca Torres et al. BEHAVIORAL PROCESSES  164
5 Mosca Torres et al. BEHAVIORAL PROCESSES  164
6 Mosca Torres, M. Eugenia, et al. "Vigilance behavior of the year-round territorial vicuna (Vicugna vicugna) outside the breeding season: Influence of group size, social factors and distance to a water source." BEHAVIORAL PROCESSES 113.1 (2015): 163-171.
7 Mosca Torres, et al. BEHAVIORAL PROCESSES 171.
8Mosca Torres, M. Eugenia, et al. "Vigilance behavior of the year-round territorial vicuna (Vicugna vicugna) outside the breeding season: Influence of group size, social factors and distance to a water source." BEHAVIORAL PROCESSES 113.1 (2015): 163-171.
9 Mosca Torres et al BEHAVIORAL PROCESSES 171.
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