A slender animal with a fawn and white coat, the vicuña has a magnificent treasure in its exceptionally fine fleece, which adorns it in unrivalled fineness and softness. Overhunted in the 1960s for its fleece, a protection programme in Peru ensured the resurgence of the Queen of the Andes. Today, vicuñas roam freely in small groups in their natural territory. In common with its fellow Andean species, the alpaca, guanaco and llama, the vicuña belongs to the larger camelid family which originated from the region of modern-day North America.
Of all the camelids, the vicuña gives by far the best wool. With a diameter of 11 to 14 microns and a length of around 30 millimetres, the fibre from its fleece is the number one precious wool in the world. Vicuñas are shorn one at a time using electric clippers. Shearing takes no more than a few minutes to limit the stress to the animal, which is immediately released. Vicuñas are shorn every two years and are ringed for identification from one year to the next.
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