Peru is one of the most biodiverse locations in the world, which means that it is home to an incredible number of creatures big and small. We could never hope to go over them all, so instead we’ll focus on a selection of the cutest, cuddliest, most adorable animals you might come across on your trip to Peru.
Andean Mountain Cats
Slightly larger than the average housecat (but just as adorable), the Andean mountain cat is exactly what the name implies – a species of cat that lives in the Andes mountains. All Andean mountain cats all have the same ash-gray colored fur with brown-yellow splotches, two dark brown lines running down their back, white cheeks, and dark rings on their tails. Like other cats, Andean mountain cats are reclusive, which means that we know very little about them. One fact we do know: thanks to habitat destruction and competition from other predators, there are only about 2,500 of these little fellas left in the world, earning them a spot on the endangered species list.
Figure 1 – By Jim Sanderson (work of Jim Sanderson) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Possibly the cuddliest member of the rodent family, chinchillas are native to a region of the Andes that includes Bolivia, Argentina, and Peru, and take their name from the Chincha tribe that once lived in the area (“chinchilla” translates literally to “little Chincha”). They prefer to live at high elevations – up to 14,000 feet – where they group together in herds. Since before the Incas arrived in the area, chinchilla fur has been a prized commodity, for both its thickness and soft texture. While these days most chinchilla fur comes from farm-raised animals, hunting is still a real threat to the species’ survival; over a period of 15 years, 90% of the global population of chinchillas disappeared.
Also known as the Andean short-faced bear, the spectacled bear is the last surviving short-faced bear species on the planet. Smaller and less aggressive than the typical bear, spectacled bears are almost completely herbivorous, feeding mostly on fruits, nuts, and other plant life. While mothers will attack if they believe their cubs are in danger, don’t let the big claws fool you; spectacled bears are surprisingly docile and calm, preferring to run away or climb a tree rather than get in a fight.
South America Fur Seals
These squishy-looking sea mammals can be found along long stretches of the Pacific coast of South America, including the southern beaches of Peru. Adult males of the species have a dark gray coat that can be accented with tan or light gray splotches, while females and pre-adult males range in color from rust brown to medium gray on their undersides, and gray or tan on their muzzles. Males also grow mains along their head and shoulders, and tend to be much larger than females; adult male fur seals can weigh over 400 pounds.
You’ve heard of llamas and alpacas before, but those aren’t the only furry camelids that call Peru home. Meet the vicuña, the wild ancestor of both the llama and the alpaca, and the national animal of Peru. Even before the founding of the modern state of Peru, vicuñas were an important animal in the region’s culture. Inca royalty would wear garments made from vicuña fur, which had to be painstakingly collected by capturing the animals in the wild and shearing them (to make matters worse, a vicuña only produces enough fur to be sheared every 3 years). Though vicuña were once seriously in danger of becoming extinct (thanks to continuing demand for their precious fur), their numbers have since rebounded.
Want to see these adorable animals in person? Book your trip to Peru through Best Peru Tours today and get great deals on tour packages. Contact us today at 866-788-5647.