The Vicuna & Alpaca Registry and Research Journal

I would like to welcome you to read and learn about the Vicuna and Alpaca Registry and Research Association (VARRA). I know you will find this project both exciting and educational. It is our fervent hope to share with you our dream of what we hope to accomplish through the diligent care, selective breeding and love of the Vicuna and Alpaca.

In this, our first issue of the Vicuna and Alpaca Registry and Research Journal (VARRJ), we will be discussing some the very special attributes of the Vicuna and how the gene pool of this wondrous camelid was nearly exterminated. We will also discuss how we intend on preserving some of this gene pool in the United States made possible by probable descendency of the Alpaca from the wild Vicuna. Not only will we preserve some the gene pool but also we will improve the economic qualities of the Alpaca.

Most importantly, this issue will describe the Registry, upon which all else is predicated. Without a controlled and protected Registry the research, breeding and genetics would go undocumented.

So please, sit back, enjoy and absorb the wonder of the magnificent Vicuna and understand why this animal was the sole privy of the Incan elite.

 

Table of Contents

History of the Vicuna
The Pacuna®: The Dream
The Vicuna Alpaca Registry: VAR
Pacuna® Research: Goals & Methods
VAR: The Website
The Sponsors: Investment
Observing the Pacuna®

 

History of the Vicuna

The Vicuna is one of two non-domesticated camelids, the other being the guanaco. The Vicuna, however, retains one of the richest and noblest of histories, including one of the earliest attempts by man to maintain a non domesticated animal with a harvestable product through artificial selection or perhaps natural selection aided by man. Darwin after having visited Peru in 1868 wrote, Vicuna management is one of the most curious cases of selection by semi-civilized people, or indeed by any people. The Incas sheared the wild guanaco and Vicuna; the old males and females were killed, and the others set at liberty; the young animals selected from the most beautiful and strong were given their freedom. Here than, we have selection by man aiding natural selection.

Of course, the attribute that makes the Vicuna so unique and the focus of such royal attention is this animal's most amazing fiber. The very soft and small diameter fiber (around 12 microns) is said to be the finest animal fiber in the world. Indeed, the Incas considered it so valuable that only the rulers were permitted to wear it and possession of it was punished by death to those outside the aristocracy. So valuable is the fiber that even in modern times a jacket made of Vicuna fiber started a bit of a scandal in the Truman Administration. Today, although Vicuna fiber is once again available commercially it is still an object of illicit activity.

The Vicuna is found in four South American countries: Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina. They are divided into sub-species, depending on geographical origin and can be differentiated by such characteristics as color patterns and bib size. Prior to the Spanish invasions of the area Vicuna numbers were plentiful. The Spaniards were not merciful to the noble animal, however. They found it easier to shoot them to collect the fiber than to catch and release them. It did not take long to decimate the population. The slaughter continued into the early to mid 20th century as firearms became more available to the masses. In addition, the introduction of other livestock, including sheep, into the Vicuna ranges increased competition for survival.

The result was less than 2000 animals surviving in the 1960's. The various governments and world organizations finally decided to step into action. The Vicuna convention was started in the late 60's and local protection was initiated. Peru and Bolivia originally signed on with Chile and Argentina following later. In the late 70's the five states representing the geographical home of the Vicuna signed an agreement to protect, conserve and utilize the Vicuna in a sustainable manner. Currently, there are over 200,000 animals, the bulk being in Peru. The respective governments have allowed the local communities to organize the "Chaku" or the rounding up of the Vicuna in a controlled manner, shear them and than release them. Research continues on the best methods for these programs to reduce the stress and possible health related problems to the animals as well as the best ways to help the locals whose lands the animals graze, profit from the sale of the fiber. There is some work progressing to captive raise the Vicuna in the countries of origin. Much work remains to be done to see if such programs are practical, both economically as well as practically. The Vicuna is truly a wild animal and attempts at domestication could prove difficult. There has been some research into crossing the Vicuna with the domesticated alpaca. This plan may be a better way to "domesticate" Vicuna bloodlines and improve fiber quality in the alpaca. The hybrid, often called the Pacuna®, has been shown to handle captivity well, maintain fertility and in fact, greatly improve the fiber quality of alpacas. Currently, there is a research-breeding herd of Pacuna® in the United States in Southern NH.

Vicuna fiber is now available once again on the world market, although some countries still consider the Vicuna endangered and thus any product from them are illegal for importation. As the Vicuna is removed from the most endangered lists the fiber products will be more available. Current prices for the rare material made from the fiber ranges from $1800 to $3000 per yard. Typically a man's scarf will fetch $800. It is the countries` wish that the prized and pricey fiber will enable continued research into the conservation of the species as well as a source of needed income for the natives.

The Vicuna, on the brink of extinction just four decades ago is now making resurgence. Its unique fiber and ability to thrive in the rugged alto plano of South America make this magnificent animal truly a world wonder and deserving of this second chance at survival. The gene pool that produces the noblest of the noble world fibers should be preserved for all future generations to enjoy and to this end research must continue in South America to maintain the pure herds as well as research in the rest of the world to preserve and improve fiber qualities. Back to Top

 

The Pacuna®

What do you get when you cross a shark and a dog? I'm not sure but they say its bite is a lot worse than its bark. Well, we all know that crossing animals as diverse as this is not possible but we also know those closer crosses are not only possible but also very desirable. The mule, a cross between a donkey and a horse, possesses many good attributes of each parent (some say they also possess a couple of new ones all their own as well). The problem with mules is that they are reproductively sterile.

When contemplating any cross species type of hybrids the important point to consider is why would one want to do it. The obvious answer is to get offspring that will improve both of the species being crossed. In the case of the Pacuna®, there is no doubt that this goal is achieved. The alpaca has fine fiber but the Vicuna fiber is second to none. The Vicuna is basically a wild animal that produces very small amounts of fiber whereas the alpaca is very domesticated and does very well in captivity producing larger amounts of fiber. So the Pacuna® is the perfect result. The fiber is very fine with diameters in the 12 to 14 micron range. The yields are about four times what one would harvest from the Vicuna. The males are a bit higher strung but do very well in larger enclosures. They accept being handled. Perhaps one of the most important results is that the Pacuna® is reproductively sound. Initial research in the United States has demonstrated the fertility of Pacuna® with levels of up to 7/8 Vicuna while still retaining much of the more docile alpaca temperament.

Externally, the Pacuna® truly looks like a mix of both parents. A 1/2 breed usually has a darkish red coloration. The head is more streamlined than the alpaca with the shorter ears. The eyes are a bit larger in relation to the head as in the Vicuna. As the cross gets higher percents of Vicuna blood the lighter colored bib becomes more apparent as does the typical Vicuna coloration.

Is the Pacuna® a new animal of the future? Perhaps, but it is also an animal of the past. In Peru there is both accidental and intentional cross breeding of alpacas and Vicunas and also there is interbreeding of the other camelids in the area (llamas and guanacos). So as you can see the idea of the Pacuna® is not new in South America but it is very new in the Untied States. Back to Top

 

The Vicuna Alpaca Registry

The VAR will be the guiding force in the breeding and protection of the Pacuna® in the United States. VAR will keep detailed DNA, photo and fiber identification of each Pacuna® registered in this country to help protect this developing industry. In addition, the VAR will pool, process and market the fiber produced from all of the animals in the registry. By controlling all aspects of the fiber production to the end product will enable the industry to "brand" the finest fiber produced in the United States, thus maintaining economic stability in the animals themselves.

Following is a basic outline of the rules and regulations required to register any animal in the Vicuna Alpaca Registry:

      1. Any animal registered must be at least one-quarter Vicuna.
      2. All Vicuna percentages will be determined through DNA blood testing.
      3. VAR will maintain on location identification of each animal in the registry and such identification will include four digital           photos (front, back and each side shot), DNA blood typing and a fiber sample.
      4. Imports will be allowed into the registry for a limited time.
      5. All harvested fiber from all registered Pacuna® will be pooled and processed and crafted into articles of clothing by the           VARRA. Such articles of clothing may be offered for sale or simply displayed. Proceeds of the sale of such articles will be           used for further promotion of the Pacuna® in the United States and fund research on the Pacuna®. Excess funds will be           evenly distributed to all registrants on an equal basis in the form of dividends.

As you can see this new registry will be exciting and fun. The fiber from the Pacuna® is the finest raised in the United States and the beautiful products that can be crafted from it will be awe inspiring and will definitely become collectors items due to rarity and uniqueness.

If you are interested in more information or a complete set of Rules and Regulations on the VARRA write to:

The VARRA
c/o Daniel Ramage
31 Church Rd.
Chester, NH 03036

Email: info@vicunaalpacaregistry.com

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Pacuna® Research

The Alpaca Vicuna Registry will perform continuous research into the care, nutrition, breeding and fiber qualities of the Pacuna®. Currently there is research going on in the South American Countries where the Vicuna is native. These countries are trying very hard to create a sustainable use industry with the existing Vicuna. One of the goals for these countries is to provide income to the indigenous human population upon whose land the Vicunas inhabit. In the past these animals were rounded up annually in what is called the Chaku. This process is being reinstated in some areas but the question remains of how much damage is being done to these wild animals in the form of extreme stress.

The VARRA will have ongoing projects to determine the effects of stress on these animals through regular health checks, pregnancy exams, herd management within fenced boundaries, and nutritional supplementation. By comparing the effects of these parameters on those already established in pure alpaca herds we will better understand the needs of the Vicuna which will lead to the successful sustainable use concept both in the United States and South America.

Most importantly the VARRA will be performing research on the fiber quality of Vicuna hybrids. Back to Top

 

VAR: The Website

No registry or journal is complete without a website and VARRA has one of the finest and easiest to use sites on web. On the site you will be able to learn of some the basics of the Vicuna, the alpaca and the Pacuna®. Beautiful pictures of the foundation herd grace the pages at every click. You will find every issue of this Journal on the site as well as current information on the Registry including numbers registered and other vital information.

For a pleasant time surf on over to VicunaAlpacaRegistry.com. You will enjoy the pictures and articles and learn more about the Pacuna®. Back to Top

 

Our Sponsors

A+ Energy Services

Offering the finest in investment quality Alpacas and breeding services. Now offering investments in registered Pacunas® (Vicuna/Alpaca hybrids)

Phone: 1-603-489-9269

And
Rare Alpacas and Pacunas®

Fax: 1-603-329-7248

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Observing the Pacuna®

It was a beautiful fall day when the Pacuna® were transported to a new facility in Southern New Hampshire. Preparation and care was given as to facilitate the transport with the least amount of stress as possible. Males, Females, Crias, and pregnant were all relaxed and calm as the trailers drove straight to NH. There they were given larger fenced pastures with large shade trees, slightly inclined terrain, underground plumbed water with solar heaters, multiple 3-sided structures, and tender care so as to ease their transition. Vicunas in the wild are known to be extremely shy and wild when either predators or humans are near. Pacuna® on the other hand are much more gentle, although still cautious as to anyone unknown. Having flat terrain in the past; the Pacuna® males after a few weeks settled on new herd leaders for themselves, taking the high ground as the prime spot for comfort and visibility for predators and females. The percentage of pure vicuna blood does seem to dictate a much different behavior from alpacas. The females are very calm and socialable within their large group but still very cautious as to unknown people or animals, giving an alert sound to all until the potential threat has left. Whereas alpacas tend to spit constantly at feeding time, have multiple dung piles, and seemingly small regard for cleanliness of their shelter.

The Pacuna® females have been observed with 1 dung pile with 4 Pacuna® backed up to it at a time. Extremely rare, is spitting at feeding time, except for an alpaca or 2 within the herd. Although "talking" or speaking their mind to another can sometimes be heard. The little ones being extremely curious and getting a "sweet" tooth for good grain can be observed running towards you to be the first, like a child at the candy counter with a pocketful of change sometimes softly talking to you rather than humming. The soft fleece can be felt, and on a cold day give warmth and comfort to cold hands.

The Pacuna® males once set on their social groups have one dung pile per group that does not keep getting wider and wider but rather taller. Once winter sets in, the stronger males are seen puppy dogged eyed looking to share the shelter for warmth and comfort with their previous rivals who were forced up there for weeks past. The males love to eat and constantly exercise, lending their necks and sides for rubbing or massaging at feeding time. Countless hours each week are spent in the pastures observing, feeding, talking to, observing the social patterns of the females and the sometimes unforeseeable social behavior of the males, and above all else: bonding with the Pacuna®. An untrusting animal of any kind will migrate to their instincts of survival from predators and unless they can see you as being a trusting person they will seem "wild" when in fact it is the nature to survive, since in their eyes anyone can be a predator. Back to Top