Vicuña

The vicuña (Vicugna vicugna) population in northern La Paz is found on the Andean plateau of Ulla Ulla in the Apolobamba protected area, 4,300 meters above sea level. This area is characterized by the existence of grasslands and peat bogs suitable for domestic Andean camelid breeding: alpacas and llamas. This region has been classified as one of eight vicuña conservation units in Bolivia and has the highest population density of the species. The highlands of Ulla Ulla were part of the ancient Kallahuaya territory, and now 27 communities form the Vicuña Regional Management Association of Apolobamba. In 1965 the vicuña population was endangered and only 96 individuals were recorded in the region. In order to ensure the performance of the species, in 1972 the Bolivian government created the National Wildlife Ulla Ulla Reserve (now included within the Apolobamba protected area). In 1979, seven years after the establishment of the reserve, there was an increase to 1,139 individuals, in the following census the increase was more significant: in 1996, 6,536 individuals; in 1999, 7,522; in 2002, 8,556; in 2005, 10,350; in 2008, 11,365; and in 2009, 11,778 vicuñas. WCS provided financial support to conduct the vicuña annual census between 2002 and 2005, and collaborated with the digitizing the data in 2008 and 2009. The successful recovery of the vicuña seems to indicate that the distribution of the species will expand in the region which will require further monitoring efforts in the future.

In 2001 WCS established a baseline distribution of vicuña in Apolobamba through standard questionnaires with park guards in the area. With the information of the vicuña observation points (family groups and solitary males), it was possible to establish its potential distribution for the area and a biological landscape for the species was developed.

Additionally, between 2006 and 2008, WCS conducted health studies of diseases in vicuñas and domestic animals in Apolobamba, in coordination with the management of the protected area and the communities: Antaquilla, Caalaya, Cañuhuma, Curva, Lagunillas, Medallani, Nube Pampa y Puyo Puyo. Results showed that 94% of the evaluated vicuñas were in good health condition, while 31% of alpacas (Vicugnapacos) and 59% of sheep presented signs of disease.

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