This Photo Friday, take a glimpse of the beautiful vicuñas and their habitats. Vicuñas are part of the camelids family and a wild relative of alpacas and llamas. Found only in South America, they usually roam the high alpine and chilly glacier regions of the Andes Mountains. The fur of vicuñas can be made into extremely fine wool and transformed into luxurious merchandise highly sought after globally. Yet, vicuñas can only be shaved once every three years. In fact, only Inca royalty were permitted to wear vicuña fur 500 years ago.
Vicuñas were so heavily hunted for their fur that they were declared an endangered species in 1974. Although there are an estimated 350,000 vicuñas left in South America, conservation programs such as Grupo Especialista en Camelidos Sudamericanos (GECS) are still present to protect the animals from poaching and loss of habitats due to glacier melt. Vicuñas are the national animal of Peru.