The vicua (Vicugna vicugna) or vicugna is one of two wild South American camelids, along with the guanaco, which live in the high alpine areas of the Andes. It is a relative of the llama, and is now believed to share a wild ancestor with domesticated alpacas, which are raised for their fibre. Vicuas produce small amounts of extremely fine wool, which is very expensive because the animal can only be shorn every 3 years and has to be caught from the wild. When knitted together, the product of the vicua's fur is very soft and warm. It is understood that the Inca valued vicuas highly for their wool, and that it was against the law for any but royalty to wear vicua garments. Both under the rule of the Inca and today, vicuas have been protected by law. Before being declared endangered in 1974, only about 6,000 animals were left.
Contributions by Vincent Gray, Jackhynes, and Vanished User 4517.