The vicuña is the smallest of the Andean camelids and can stand 1.30 meters high. It features a graceful body and moves with agility. Its fur is light brown along its back and nearly all over its outer body, while its chest stomach and inside legs are pure white.
The animal features a tufted chest with fibers that can hang down 20 cm. At birth the vicuña weighs just 5 kg, growing to 40 kg at adulthood. Females reach puberty at a year of age but generally mate at two years; vicuñas take 340 days to whelp.
Its fiber has been classified as the finest animal fiber on Earth, with an average diameter of 12.5-1.5 microns, but only grows 3 cm long. Shearings yield up to 320 gm of fiber per animal a year.
As the vicuña produces the finest fiber, it is in demand, and for a time was an endangered species. But today, the Peruvian government protects the species in intangible national parks. Poachers, however, continue to hunt the species, gradually whittling its numbers to 170,000 worldwide, of which 100,000 are found in Peru in areas over 3,800 meters in altitude.
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