The Ulla Ulla plateau, located in the Apolobamba National Natural Area of Integrated Management, has the most significant population of vicuñas in the country, 11,778 vicuñas according to the 2009 census. Besides their ecological importance, vicuñas are economically significant for the communities of the highlands of Apolobamba; its fiber has a high value on the international market. Twenty communities of the municipalities of Pelechuco, Curva and Charazani conform the Apolobamba Vicuña Managers Association and participate in the National Program for Vicuña Conservation and Management, benefiting 80% of its population. Vicuña herding, trapping and shearing campaigns run annually following technical training of community members with the support of the National Protected Area Service (SERNAP). So far, there have been three international sales of vicuña fiber (2007, 2008 and 2010), bringing significant income to the participating families.
As part of the vicuña management activities, there have been annual censuses and assessments of health status of the species and the domestic livestock with which it shares habitat with the aim of generating information to support conservation actions. Since 2002, WCS worked with SERNAP in conducting the annual census of vicuñas. Between 2006 and 2008, the first health studies of disease in domestic animals and vicuñas was conducted in the communities of Antaquilla, Caalaya, Cañuhuma, Curva, Lagunillas, Medallani, Nube Pampa and Puyo Puyo,in the Apolobamba protected area.This work was developed in coordination with the protected area authorities and grass root organizations, obtaining a baseline of animal health in the area. The results of sanitary surveys showed that 94% of the studied vicuñas were in good health, while 59% of sheep and 31% of the alpacas showed signs of disease.The high parasite levels found in sheep, not only highlight their deficient health management, but also show the high risks of contaminating pastures and the spread of diseases to other animals with which they share the pastures. This is confirmed by the finding of the parasite Moniezia spp. (whose natural host is sheep) in 21.8% of domestic and wild camelids that were sampled.
Besides the high rates of internal and external parasites identified in domestic animals, mainly sheep, an inadequate management of antiparasitic products was also identified, characterized by the use of incorrect dosages and lack of periodicity in the application of treatments.
In order to improve health of domestic animals bred in the area, technical training modules for animal health workers and community informative sessions were organized to reduce parasite loads in pastures where vicuñas feed. Additionally, workshops and health calendars were developed to help community ranchers to better plan their health related activities.
The information obtained through health monitoring, enabled the design and implementation of integral strategies aimed to improve the health of vicuñas and domestic animals with which they share their habitat; an important safeguard for the economy of the Apolobamba people.