By Hannah Vickers
Communities are asking to reestablish the Pro Vicuña surveillance and protection program that was suspended last year.
Poachers have killed 159 vicuñas in Ayacucho to sell their wool on the black market.
The illegal hunters took advantage of the heavy rains and the lowered vigilance to kill the animals. The Pro Vicuña protection and surveillance program that had been in place was suspended by the Regional Government of Ayacucho last year.
President of the community of Lucanas, César Rojas Allcca told El Comercio that the poachers had been seen by community members from Mayobamba, in the district of Chipao, Andamarca, and also in Chaupi, in the district of Puquio.
Rojas said on Friday, March 28 that the killing had been going on since the beginning of March but that the deaths had intensified in the past ten days, and that the poachers had left the remains of the animals strewn around the countryside.
He added that the poachers use long distance weapons and threaten community members. He said that not only do they keep these three communities in fear, but also people in the neighboring areas.
Rojas has demanded that the Regional Government of Ayacucho send police to capture the poachers and reinstall the Pro Vicuña program that was suspended in 2012.
“These bands have increased their action since they found out about the inexplicable decision of the Regional Government of Ayacucho to suspend the assignment of the budget for the Pro Vicuña program for 2012, which was in force up until last year and which allowed us to count on available resources for the control, surveillance, and preservation of these species,” he said.
The ultra-fine vicuña wool is a much sought after and expensive material. Not long ago, they were endangered— back in the 1960s there were only around 10,000 left— but the Peruvian government took steps to protect them and now there are around 350 thousand living in the Andes.
Vicuñas live in the wild and have to be caught before they can be shorn. They can also only be shorn once every two to three years. Because of this, there’s a huge gap between supply and demand, meaning that vicuña goods can sell for thousands of dollars. Italian luxury firm Loro Piana, one of the world’s leading suppliers of vicuña goods, sells vicuña scarves for US$4,000.
El Comercio reports that the vicuña breeding community of the province of Lucanas has the largest number of vicuña in the country and that there are around 24 thousand vicuñas on the 13 thousand hectares of land, benefiting the 322 families of the communities. Poaching tends to increase in the first five months of each year.