It is the most beautiful and the smallest species of the South American camelids, reaching a head height of 1.30 meters. It has a graceful, slender body, which include its large exotic eyes. Its movements are agile, yet fast. The color of its fur is brownish orange, with a unique tonality. Its belly, paws and the tuft of its bristled chest (which can measure up to 20 cm) are a snowy white. The vicuña has continuously growing incisors (like rodents). Their habitat is in the high Andean pampas between 3200-4000 meters. Its fiber, regarded for its quality and texture, is the finest among all the world's animals. Their fleece can reach a weight of 350 gr. The constant attack on the delicate Andean ecosystem, and demand for the its very fine fiber has caused this animal to become endangered. Happily the Peruvian government and native communities understood the gravity of the situation and have now declared it a protected species and monitor its habitat. The inhabitants of the Andes practice chako, or shearing to obtain their fiber. Cultural practice with propitiatory rites, ceremonies and symbols clearly demonstrate the artistic and cultural richness of the Andean culture and the close relationship between man and the environment is portrayed in the presence of an original and unique worldview of the Andean people. The Chaco, apart from their great traditional and festive wealth, represents a valuable opportunity to control the expansion, growth and possible diseases that may endanger the life and presence of this valuable camel.
The Guanaco is a camelid with an amazing adaptive capacity. It can be found in almost all climates. As an adult, it reaches a maximum head height of 1.60 meters and has a greater weight than the vicuña. The fiber despite being thin, is of excellent quality, and long, and with the weight of the fleece of the vicuna. Domestication of the Guanaco is not possible since the animals are characteristically territorial. In their permanent habitat it is distributed in family groups of 4-7 members under the protection of an alpha male expelling the male offspring of the herd to ensure their leadership and dominance. These exiled offspring form groups of up to 20 young animals, with the adult males survivers of the original group remaining in the territory to form a new family unit and repeating the cycle again. Today unfortunately this species is endangered, due to poaching of young specimens.
Alpacas currently constitute one of the means of subsistence for highland communities, by serving and providing them with quality products. This animal has an average head height of 1.59 meters and reaches a weight of 70 Kg. Two predominant varieties are found: The Huacayo and Suri, who differ primarily by the type and size of their fiber. The relationship between man and the Andes Alpaca dates back to pre-Inca times. It has been portrayed in beautiful pieces of arts and crafts. The fundamental component of textiles and Andean fur are the fibers which today are made into beautiful garments. They are also valued for gastronomical benefits and Alpaca meat constitutes a primordial traditional element and new proposed novo Andean food diet.
The most popular and strongest of the Andean camelids, its slender and delicate figure reaches a head height of 1.90 meters, and average weight of up to 115 kg. The gestation period is 348 days. Its contribution to economy of the Andian man is invaluable, being used as pack animals, supporting packs between 40 and 70 Kg. Its especially useful for long journeys and rough trails. Its fiber is used for making ropes and sacks. We find two varieties of representative llamas, the q'ara and Chaco llama, although it is very common to find hybrids. Its importance in the Peruvian culture and idiosyncrasy is such that it was even represented in the national symbol, in the national coat of arms, only more recently replaced by the vicuña. The Figure of imagery and popular culture, present within legends, myths and traditions of the Andes, this noble animal has always been part of the culture and heritage of Peru, inspiring artists and artisans, with few animals representing the spirit of the Andes with as much justice and clarity as the llama.