The vizcacha is an agile and graceful rodent that is very similar to the rabbit, both in its posture and its elongated ears. This mammal, which belongs to the Chinchillidae family, lives in our mountains, as well as in other South American countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina.
It is between 30 and 50 centimeters long and can weigh up to 17 pounds. It has an abundant, soft, thick coat and we know that in the time of the Incas, the fur of this little animal was valued highly, as it was used to produce fabrics for the nobility.
Garcilaso de la Vega, in his book Comentarios Reales de los Incas (‘Royal Commentaries of the Incas’), comments: "At the time of the Incan Kings and for many years after, which even I saw, they would use the vizcacha's fur, spinning it in order to vary the colors of the fine clothes they used to weave. It has a light brown, ashen color and is naturally soft and smooth. It was very highly valued among the Indians: it was only used in the clothes of the nobility."
In Peru there are at least two species of vizcachas: the Peruvian vizcacha (Lagidium peruanum), found in the central and northern highlands, and the mountain vizcacha (Lagidium viscacia), which can be found in southern Peru.
Also known as the northern vizcacha, it is perhaps one of the most common Andean rodents to be seen in places such as the Pampa Galeras National Reserve, Huascarán National Park and in the mountains around Lima. It feeds on grasses, hard vegetables and seeds, and it prefers rocky habitats with little vegetation, where it lives in large groups, which are divided into fixed areas occupied by the different families.
They are agile – they can jump from rock to rock so quickly that it is difficult to follow them with your eyes, and they have good eyesight, which helps them to stay safe. If one of them feels threatened, it will whistle to alert the group. It is characterized by the fact that it digs underground tunnels, which not only serve as burrows, but which they also use to move around without being threatened by another animals.
These vizcachas begin their activities very early in the morning – they feed, take earth baths, wash each other and then take refuge in their caves which have a number of tunnels up to 3 meters deep.
Like the Peruvian vizcacha, this species has a thick, soft coat and chooses rocky, steep habitats with little vegetation. They are characterized by the fact that they are very active at dawn and dusk, while they spend the rest of the day curling up and sunbathing. They do not hibernate.
Mountain vizcachas consume any plant they find, mainly grasses, mosses and lichens. Breeding season is from October to December. After a period of 120 to 140 days, the female usually gives birth to one baby, which can consume solid food from its first day of life.
Sources: actualidadambiental.pe/ animalesdelperu.com/ animaldiversity.org/ unmundofragil.com/ animalespeligrosextincion.org/ conservacionapatagonica.org