It's Shearing Time: An Ancient Tradition Lives on in The Peruvian Andes

Published August 28th, 2021 - 08:16 GMT

At daybreak on a freezing cold day high in the Andes, dozens of Peruvian peasants clamber up a mountainside to carry out a their centuries-old tradition of shearing the highly-prized wool off vicunas, which are relatives of the llama.

They trudge up the mountainside and herd around 500 vicunas back down the slope into a pen made of posts and three-meter high mesh, a necessary precaution to keep the agile members of the camelid family from escaping.

The comuneros -- men and women, some even carrying children -- wrap up against the cold and wear wide-brimmed hats to protect them from the sun.

The vicuna appears on Peru's national coat of arms and there are an estimated 200,000 of the Andean camelid in the country.

The annual chaccu helps support families in 290 communities in the Peruvian Andes.

Vicuna wool is highly prized for its soft qualities and is one of the most expensive in the world.

The vicunas live at least 3,500 meters above sea level so getting their wool -- by rounding up and shearing them -- is a difficult task.

The communities in the Peruvian Andes produce around 10 tons of vicuna wool a year.

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A member of the community of Totoroma holds a vicuna during the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru

A member of the community of Totoroma holds a vicuna during the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru, on August 25, 2021. (Photo by Carlos MAMANI / AFP)

Vicunas are seen as members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru

Vicunas are seen as members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru, on August 25, 2021. (Photo by Carlos MAMANI / AFP)

Vicunas are seen as members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru

Vicunas are seen as members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru, on August 25, 2021. (Photo by Carlos MAMANI / AFP)

Members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru

Members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru, on August 25, 2021. (Photo by Carlos MAMANI / AFP)

Members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru

Members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru, on August 25, 2021. (Photo by Carlos MAMANI / AFP)

Picture of vicuna wool taken as members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Per

Picture of vicuna wool taken as members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru, on August 25, 2021. (Photo by Carlos MAMANI / AFP)

Aerial view showing members of the community of Totoroma participating in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru

Aerial view showing members of the community of Totoroma participating in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru, on August 25, 2021. (Photo by Carlos MAMANI / AFP)

A member of the community of Totoroma holds a vicuna during the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru
Vicunas are seen as members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru
Vicunas are seen as members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru
Members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru
Members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru
Picture of vicuna wool taken as members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Per
Aerial view showing members of the community of Totoroma participating in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru
A member of the community of Totoroma holds a vicuna during the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru
A member of the community of Totoroma holds a vicuna during the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru, on August 25, 2021. (Photo by Carlos MAMANI / AFP)
Vicunas are seen as members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru
Vicunas are seen as members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru, on August 25, 2021. (Photo by Carlos MAMANI / AFP)
Vicunas are seen as members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru
Vicunas are seen as members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru, on August 25, 2021. (Photo by Carlos MAMANI / AFP)
Members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru
Members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru, on August 25, 2021. (Photo by Carlos MAMANI / AFP)
Members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru
Members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru, on August 25, 2021. (Photo by Carlos MAMANI / AFP)
Picture of vicuna wool taken as members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Per
Picture of vicuna wool taken as members of the community of Totoroma participate in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru, on August 25, 2021. (Photo by Carlos MAMANI / AFP)
Aerial view showing members of the community of Totoroma participating in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru
Aerial view showing members of the community of Totoroma participating in the traditional Chaku, or Chaccu, an annual vicuna round-up and shearing festival, in the village of Totoroma, 148 km from the city of Puno, in southern Peru, on August 25, 2021. (Photo by Carlos MAMANI / AFP)

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