Vicunas (Vicugna vicugna) are members of the Camelidae family, of which there are three other living members in South America: the wild guanaco (Lama guanacoe), the domestic llama (Lama glama), and the alpaca (Lama pacos).
The smallest of all camels, the vicuna weighs about 90 pounds and stands just under three feet at the shoulder. Like all South American camel species, the vicuna has a long, supple neck; slender legs; padded, cloven feet; large round eyes; and a dense and fine tawny coat.
The vicuna is a hardy survivor adapted to high altitudes, where drought and freezing nights are the rule. It is a natural pacer and well designed to travel fast for great distances. Keen eyesight allows early detection for flights to safety.
The vicuna is the probable wild progenitor of the domestic alpaca, which was created by selective breeding about 6000 years ago. Entirely wild, vicunas live in small family groups led by a single territorial male that vigilantly repels rival males and small predators threatening the young. After 11 months of gestation, vicuna mothers give birth to one baby, known as a cria.
Vicunas are highly communicative, signaling one another with body postures, ear and tail placement, and numerous other subtle movements. Their vocalizations include an alarm call -- a high pitched whinny -- that alerts the herd to danger. They also emit a soft humming sound to signal bonding or greeting and a range of guttural sounds that communicate anger and fear. "Orgling" is probably their most unique noise. This male-only, melodic mating sound attracts unbred females