At the CITES Conference of the Parties this week in Geneva, WCS was pleased to support the efforts of the Convention for the Conservation and Management of Vicuña to connect the protections of this iconic Latin American animal from threats posed by commercial trade with those focused on illegal trade in vicuña wool and associated garments.
Such illegal trade undermines the conservation of the species, as well as the livelihoods and well-being of the Andean indigenous communities in vicuña range countries, which include Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru.
But while we agree that there should be greater synergy between CITES and the Convention for the Conservation and Management of Vicuña to help combat illegal trade in vicuña products, we also believe that additional focus is needed on health monitoring of this species. This is an important issue for regional collaboration, in particular because of a recognized increase in prevalence of mange in some vicuña populations.
Mange is a disease that can result in both severe declines in vicuña populations and longer-term reductions in the quantity and quality of the fiber produced from their wool — with cascading impacts on the livelihoods of communities engaged in production of wool for commercial trade.
During debate at CITES, WCS proposed that vicuña range states include health monitoring during annual shearing campaigns when large herds are brought together. While such shearing events provide an opportunity for the transfer of disease between animals, they also provide the chance to provide proactive health assessments.
We believe this an effective way to reduce the risk of mange transmission, its impact in wild populations, and implementation of vicuña management plans. At CITES and beyond, we will continue our efforts to include a focus on One Health monitoring associated with vicuña wool production across the continent.
Yovana Murillo is a Coordinator for Species Initiative: Wildlife Trafficking and Health with the Peru Program at WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society).