Mother-Offspring Relationship in the Vicuña, Vicugna vicugna (Mammalia: Camelidae)


Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PS, U.K.


The vicuña mother-offspring bond was studied during the calves' first and third months of life. Pairs kept in field and corral conditions allowed to compare mother-offspring relationships between animals with and without management. Vicuñas belong to the “follower type” in the classic distinction among ungulate species between “followers” and “hiders”. In the field, mother-offspring distances were small during the first month then increased. In the corral, mother-offspring distance was greater than in the field in the first month and did not vary with age. In the third month, in both “conditions” mothers tended to avoid their calves more than in the first month. Although calves initiated approximately 90% of nursing bouts during both periods, the percent terminated by the mother was significantly higher in the third month than in the first (96% to 59%). The calves increased their grazing time from a few scans per h in the first month to half the sample period in the third month. The mother-offspring bonds showed some quantitative differences between field and corral, but in both “conditions” the mothers nursed their calves successfully.