The Altiplano is a cold, harsh habitat, ranging from about 12,000-18,000 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains of South America. At this elevation, there are no trees to block strong winds, and very little rain, though nightly fog and dew provide water. The land is covered with low, tough shrubs and hardy grasses, neither of which provides places to hide. This inhospitable area is home to a species of animal with the finest fiber in the world: the vicuna.
During the height of the Incan empire, the animals were plentiful and numbered approximately 2 million. Their fleece was so valuable (vicuna fabric currently sells for $1,800 to $3,000 per yard) that only royalty could wear garments made from it.