Poachers kill more than 150 vicunas in highland community of Huancabamba

Poachers have killed more than 150 vicunas — one of two wild South American camelids — near the highland community of Huancabamba, in Peru’s southern department of Apurímac, said community leader Eugenio Allccia Díaz.

According to Allccia, the poachers rounded up the vicuna with 4×4 jeeps, shot them dead, and then stripped the animals of their precious fiber.

Public Ministry delegates have traveled to the area for investigation, and Andahuaylas provincial mayor Víctor Molina Quintana has requested help from Peru’s Ministry of Interior and the National South American Camelid Council, or Conacs.

The vicuna, a relative of the llama and the alpaca, lives wild in the Andes Mountains at altitudes of more than 4,000 meters.

For decades, poachers in search of the world’s most valuable wool — it sells anywhere from $437 to $650 per kilo — simply shot vicunas rather than struggle to trap, shear and then release the elusive animals.

By 1964, only 25,000 vicunas were left, and the species was on the brink of extinction. That same year, the Peruvian government created the Pampa Galeras National Reserve, now the principal sanctuary for the species. Since then, Peru’s vicuna population has steadily risen to approximately 200,000 animals.

Today, as during Inca times, vicunas are captured, shorn and released. Villagers conduct small-scale roundups throughout the highlands’ May-September dry season, and take part in the national Chaccu, an annual roundup coupled with a three-day festival.

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