The Queen of the Andes: History

The “Queen of the Andes” is a graceful, regal creature. At the end of the fifteenth century, in the days of the Incas, the vicuñas were free to graze on the steep slopes of the Andes. They were thought to have magic powers granted by the gods: people believed they were reincarnations of the dead, capable of appeasing the god Inti to ensure warmth and fertility on earth. Legend had it that the vicuña originated from water, and would take refuge in water to escape from anyone wishing to keep it in captivity. Indeed vicuñas have always lived wild, untamed by man, dominating the bitterly cold Andean plateaus with natural grace.

At the end of the fifteenth century there were millions of vicuñas in Peru and Bolivia, yet just a century later this figure had fallen to just a few thousand, as the animals were massacred by the Spanish conquistadors eager to get their hands on the “silk of the New World” . From then on, despite numerous conservation initiatives, poaching continued at an alarming rate, bringing the vicuña population down to no more than 5,000 animals by the 1960s.

For this reason, in 1976 the Washington Convention (CITES) placed the vicuña on the list of endangered species and – with the aim of discouraging poaching – completely banned any trading in its precious fibre. It was then that Loro Piana began to work actively in Peru, driven by a passion for a raw material that has no equals in the animal kingdom, and inspired by the idea of taking concrete steps to help save these diminutive members of the camel family. 1994 saw a key development, when Loro Piana, heading the International Vicuña Consortium, was granted the exclusive right to trade in vicuña fibre: the Peruvian campesinos were given the right to shear the vicuñas, undertaking to protect them from poachers.

Since then, with the support of responsible businesses like Loro Piana, the conservation programs introduced by the Peruvian government and other South American countries (including Argentina) have effectively saved this proud, wild species, a species that continues to represent an extraordinary celebration of freedom and the natural world.

The initiative has proved a great success: the vicuña population in Peru has risen from 98,000 head in 1995 to the current figure of more than 180,000.

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