Poachers kill 370 vicuñas in Huancavelica province

Poachers have killed more than 370 vicuñas — one of two wild South American camelids — near the highland community of Santiago de Chocorvos, in Peru’s central department of Huancavelica.

According to daily El Comercio, the poachers rounded up the vicuna, killed them, and then stripped the animals of their precious fiber. Local farmers estimate that the poachers have gotten away with 55 kilos of vicuña wool, valued at $15,000.

Poachers continue to be a problem in the region because there is a lack of surveillance and because the animals are bred in the wild, said the Director of Peru’s Pro Vicuña Program, Pablo de la Cruz Quispe.

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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