Biological sustainability of live shearing of vicuña in Peru

Conserv Biol. 2007 Feb;21(1):98-105. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2006.00558.x.


The vicuña's (Vicugna vicugna) fiber is highly valued as an export product that is made into luxury fabric and clothing. The price of fiber in 2004 was 566/kg dollars, which makes the fiber a potentially important source of income for Andean agropastoral communities and serves as an incentive to allow vicuña grazing on high-elevation Andean landscapes. It is presumed that a shorn vicuña has little value for poachers, so shearing vicuñas could serve as a disincentive to poaching. Thus, the supply of vicuña fiber may be sustainable if it is procured through live shearing, which should serve as a powerful conservation tool. We evaluated the effects of capture and shearing on the demography of vicuña in one site located in the Salinas Aguada Blanca Reserve, Arequipa, Peru, where vicuñas were captured and shorn in spring and then returned to the wild. We conducted fixed-width line-transect censuses from 1997 to 2003 of this population. We compared the proportion of young born to females that were shorn versus females that were unshorn for the 3 years in which shearing occurred. We evaluated the effect of capture and shearing on proportion of young born to shorn and unshorn females at a second site, Picotani, Puno. The wild population in Arequipa that underwent capture and shearing showed a steady increase in total population and average density between 1997 and 2003. No significant difference was found between the proportion of young per female for shorn and unshorn females at either site. We conclude that in spring, capture and live shearing of vicuñas can be biologically sustainable. Further research is needed to determine whether shearing during winter months is biologically sustainable.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / methods*
  • Animals
  • Camelids, New World / growth & development*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods*
  • Female
  • Fertility / physiology
  • Peru
  • Population Dynamics
  • Wool / growth & development*