Saving a precious llama of the Andes

The vicuña is a small llama resembling a camel but without any humps. It lives high in the Andes at between 3800 and 4600 meters. It produces one of the most beautiful raw materials in the world. Its very fine wool, sacred to eyes of the Inca, is used by luxury brands to manufacture coats, scarves, gloves, ponchos and bedclothes.

In 1975 there were only 6000 vicuñas remaining due to illegal hunting for their valuable wool. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), adopted in 1973, has chosen to protect this animal.

A durable management plan for the remaining herds has been developed in collaboration with local communities. It has been a resounding success as the population has increased and since 1987, the trade of vicuña wool has been gradually restored under strict conditions: the animals are captured, shorn and then released. Thanks to the CITES, a vicuña has survived extinction. There are now more than 350,000 vicuñas.

CITES, or the Washington Convention, regulates the international trade of close to 35,000 species of plants and animals. With its 176 member states, CITES is one of the most powerful parties in the world for the conservation of biodiversity through its control of the trade of wile fauna and flora. In 2013 it will celebrate its 40th anniversary. 

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