How a national reserve stopped the extinction of the Peruvian vicuña

  • In the 1960s, the total number of vicuñas in Peru was approximately 5,000.
  • The community of Lucanas was able to overcome violence from internal armed conflicts, and now those in the community use vicuña fur from Pampa Galeras National Reserve.
  • Every year, the Lucanas community exports 1,000 kilograms (about 2,200 pounds) of vicuña fur.
  • The National Service of Natural Protected Areas (SERNANP) will give a “green seal” to the fur sheared off the vicuñas by the community for their outstanding conservation practices.

LUCANAS PROVINCE, Peru — At an altitude of 13,450 feet, the icy wind pounds whatever lies in its path. After 23 years of living in the Pampa Galeras – Barbara D’Achille National Reserve, Hernán Sosaya is well-adjusted and can withstand the blustering wind.

At the top of a plain, a vicuña (Vicugna vicugnanotices) and a cousin to llamas, sees that we are only a few feet away and raises its head.

“You can recognize the male because it’s always at the front of the herd, attentively watching for danger,” says Sosaya. The male vicuña starts to move away and the rest of the group trots along behind him.

The park rangers at Pampa Galeras, like Sosaya, are experts at monitoring vicuñas. Every day, they are monitored within the park, which is 40 square miles and located in the district of Lucanas in Peru’s Ayacucho region. With more than 5,000 vicuñas currently living in the protected area, monitoring them has not been easy.

Allan Flores, the manager of the reserve, put this into perspective with this piece of data: in the 1960s, there were about 5,000 vicuñas living in the entire country of Peru.

Back then, throughout the entire Ayacucho region, including the reserve, there were only about 1,000 vicuñas. Sosaya says that a research project on the vicuña was begun in the 1960s in collaboration with German researchers, and the South American camelid was listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. One of the actions taken to conserve the species was the creation of a reserve to help the animals in danger. That was how Galeras, as the reserve is referred to locally, was created.

This story first appeared on Mongabay

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