Rustling for hair

THE VICUNA, South America's graceful camelid coveted for its soft, silky hair, is falling prey to well-organised gangs of international rustlers "working for brokers within Latin America who then ship the fibre in bales to Europe and Asia", according to an expert with Conacs, Peru's quasi-government agency for camelids, which is an animal similar to the llama.

Five vicunas have to be killed to procure enough yarn to weave a metre of cloth, which fetches between $1,500 and $3,000 in the European or Asian black market.

The answer lies in the rational exploitation of the animal, say Conacs officials and businesspersons interested in buying the coveted fibre. They say if farmers are permitted to benefit from the sale of the cloth, both protection and animal husbandry are certain to improve.

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