SOUTH AMERICAN CAMELIDS (Llama Alpaca Vicuña Guanaco)
The high Altiplano of Bolivia, Argentina, Chile and Peru are the natural habitat of South American Camelids. Camelids can thrive on the tough vegetation found in this region and are adapted to the high altitude (over 4 kilometers above sea level) and extremes of temperature.
Camelids are members of the biological family Camelidae, the only living family in the suborder Tylopoda.
The original Camelids of North America remained common until the quite recent geological past, but then disappeared, possibly as a result of hunting or habitat alterations by the earliest human settlers. Three species groups survived: the dromedary of northern Africa and South-west Asia; the Bactrian camel of central Asia; and the South American group, which has now diverged into a range of forms that are closely related but usually classified as four species: Llamas (Lama Glama), Alpaca (Lam Pacos), Guanaco (Lma Guanacoe), and Vicuñas (Vicugna Vicugna).
The guanaco and vicuña are now relatively rare wild species but are probably the ancestors of the domesticated llama and alpaca. Alpacas and llamas may have been domesticated as early as 4000 BC.
The South American Camelids, adapted to steep and rocky terrain, can move the pads on their toes to maintain grip.
PERU ADVENTURE TOUR recommend to respect to local famers keeping away of Camelids some foods, drinks or anything not considering natural food these animals. The National park where lives Guanacos and Vicuñas are protected by the local communities around and the Peruvian government and we recommend not alter the nature when you go for camping or just cross the area hiking.
VICUÑA (Vicugna vicugna)
The Vicuña (Vicugna Vicugna) is the smallest and rarest of the South American Camelids, and its hair is considered the finest and softest in the world. The smallest of the Camelids these timid animals were hunted almost to extinction for their fibres.
Historical chronicles indicate that Vicuña textiles were reserve for Inca royalty, also this animal was considerate sacred.
Because of the request for its highly coveted luxurious fiber, the Vicuña was driven nearly to extinction by the 1960s. Thankfully to various conservation programs have ensured survival of the Vicuña in Peru, and this wonderful fiber is once again available to the textile industry. There are now approximately 150,000 Vicuñas in South America, about 80% of which inhabit Peru.
The mayor concentration of the wild Vicuñas is in Pampas Galeras National Reserve (4200m), province of Lucanas, deparment of Ayacucho.
At present, the Peruvian government has a labeling system that identifies all garments that have been created through a government sanctioned Chacu . This guarantees that the animal was captured, sheared alive, returned to the wild, and cannot be sheared again for another two years. The program also ensures that a large portion of the profits return to the villagers. However, annually up to 50,000 pounds of vicuña wool are exported as a result of illegal activities. Because of this, some countries have banned the importation of the fibre in order to save the animal. And although it is possible to commercially produce wool from domesticated Vicuñas, it is difficult because they tend to escape.
Both under the rule of the Inca and today, vicuñas have been protected by law. Before being declared endangered in 1974, only about 6,000 animals were left. Today, the vicuña population has recovered to about 125,000, and while conservation organizations have reduced its level of threat, they still call for active conservation programs to protect population levels from poaching, habitat loss, and other threats.
The vicuña is considered more delicate and graceful than the Guanaco, and smaller. Although their coats may look thin, they are made up of insulating hairs that are softer and warmer than any other animal.
The Vicuñas produce small amounts of extremely fine wool, which is very expensive because the animal can only be shorn every 3 years. When knitted together, the product of the vicuña's fur is very soft and warm. It is understood that the Inca raised vicuñas for their wool, and that it was against the law for any but royalty to wear vicuña garments.
The Vicuña fibers were annually gathered through communal efforts called Chacu . Here, hundreds of thousands of people would herd hundreds of thousands of Vicuña into previously laid funnel traps. The animals would be sheared and then released and was only done every four years. The vicuña was believed to be the reincarnation of a beautiful young maiden who received a coat of pure gold once she consented to the advances of an old, ugly king. Because of this, it was against the law for anyone to kill a vicuña or wear its fleece, except for Inca royalty.
Current prices for vicuña yarns and fabrics can range from $1,800 to $3,000 per yard. Vicuña fiber can be used for apparel (such as socks, sweaters, accessories, shawls, coats, and suits) and home fashion (such as blankets and throws). A scarf costs around $1500 while a man's coat can cost up to $20,000.
In December 2006 the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed 2009 to be the International Year of Natural Fibres, so as to raise the profile of vicuña and other natural fibres.
GUANACO (Lama Guanacoe)
The Guanaco (Lama Guanacoe) is a camelid animal native of South America that stands between 107 and 122 centimeters (3.4 and 4 feet) at the shoulder and weighs about 90kg (200 lb). The colour varies very little, ranging from a light brownto dark cinnamon and shading to white underneath. Guanacos have grey faces and small straight ears. They are extremely striking with their large, alert brown eyes, streamlined form, and energetic pace. They are particularly ideal for keeping in large groups in open parklands.
In order to survive the low oxygen levels found at these high altitudes, a teaspoon of Guanaco blood contains approximately 68 million red blood cells - 4 times that of a human. Guanacos are the only South American camelids that adapt easily to different environments.
Like the Vicuña, is a wild camelid that lives in big groups of males or small bands of female led by a dominant male. There are approximately 600,000 Guanacos in South America and about 50% of them are found in different region as sea level or in the Andes at altitudes of more than 4,600 meters (more than 15,000 feet). Guanacos are one of the largest wild mammal species found in South America, they have only one natural predator, the Mountain Lion or Andean Puma. Guanacos will often spit when threatened
While female groups tend to remain small, often containing no more than ten adults, bachelor herds may have as many as 50 animals present. When they feel threatened, guanacos alert the herd to flee with a high-pitched bleating call. The male will usually run behind the herd in order to defend them. They can run with a speed of 56 km (35mi) per hour, often over steep and rocky terrain. They are also excellent swimmers. The Guanacos have an unusual method of survival; licking all the nutrients and dew from desert cacti.
The extremely high quality of Guanaco fiber can be discerned simply by touch.
Characteristically, its fiber is a reddish shade. The Guanaco (Lama Guanacoe) fiber is particularly prized for its soft and warm feel and is found in luxury fabric. The guanaco's soft wool is second only to that of the vicuña. The pelts, particularly from the calves, are sometimes used as a substitute for red fox pelts because its texture is difficult to differentiate. Like their domestic descendant, the Llama, the Guanaco is double coated with a coarse guar hair and soft undercoat, which is approximately 16-18 in diameter and is finer than the best cashmere.
ALPACA (Lama Pacos)
The alpaca (Lama Pacos) is the most commonly seen camelid in South America. Its fur is highly prized and used to make everything from sweaters and scarves to blankets and gloves. You will see herds making their way up steep mountain tracks throughout the Peruvian Andes. Alpaca meat was once considered a delicacy by Andean inhabitants, which is fat- and cholesterol-free and tender like steak, is common on dinner tables and restaurants in Peru.
The Alpaca has been domesticated for more than four thousand years, with ancient civilizations in Peru such as the Moche people of Northern Peru often used alpaca images in their art and later the Incas located in Cusco region, all incorporating the animal into their daily lives.
There are estimated four million Alpacas in South America, about 95% of which live in the central and southern regions of Peru.
Alpacas thrive at altitudes ranging from 3,000 to more than 4,500 meters (about 10,000 to 15,000 feet) above sea level in temperatures that many range from - 20 to 30 degrees centigrade in a single day.
Alpacas have over many centuries been selectively bred for fineness of fibre, losing both their outer coat and the ability to shed in the process. There are two varieties; the Suri characterized by long, curly, shiny and silky fibre. The other one is Huacayo, the predominant Alpaca type known by its fine and bulky fleece, which offers the widest range of natural shades. Peru has over 80% of the world's alpaca population (about three million animals). Alpaca fibre comes in a range of natural colours from white through to black and including fawns, browns and greys. The Huarizo, obtained by crossing a male llama with a female alpaca, produces a coarser and therefore less valuable fibre than Alpaca.
Of the various camelid species, the alpaca and Vicuña are the most valuable fiber-bearing animals: the Alpaca because of the quality and quantity of its fiber, and the Vicuñ;a because of the softness, fineness and quality of its coat. Alpacas are too small to be used as pack animals. Instead, they were bred exclusively for their fiber and meat.
Alpacas sweaters, gloves, socks, hats, shawls and many of products derived from this warm and fine fibre and made by local artesian of Peruvian Altiplano are available in all Andean markets, tourist attraction as Machu Picchu, Colca Canyon or Lake Titicaca.
LLAMA (Lama Glama)
The Llama (Lama Glama) is the heaviest and largest South American camelid. Its long legs as well as its prominent and crooked ears distinguish the llama from the other camelids. This camelid was used as pack animal by the Incas and other natives of the Andes Mountains.
Llamas appear to have originated from the central plains of North America about 40 million years ago. They migrated to South America and Asia about 3 million years ago. By the end of the last ice age (10,000-12,000 years ago) camelids were extinct in North America.
Llamas have been domesticated and used as beast of burden since Pre-Incan times. Even today, Llamas are part of the many customs and religious rituals in the Andes of Bolivia and Peru.
In South America llamas are still used as beasts of burden, as well as for the production of fiber and meat.
The height of a full-grown, full-size llama is between 5.5 feet (1.6 m) to 6 feet (1.8 m) tall at the top of the head. They can weigh between approximately 280 pounds (127 kilograms) and 450 pounds (204 kilograms). At birth, a baby llama (called a cria ) can weigh between 20 pounds (9 kilograms) to 30 pounds (14 kilograms). Llamas are very social animals and like to live with other llamas as a herd. Overall, the fiber produced by a llama is very soft and is naturally lanolin free. Llamas are intelligent and can learn simple tasks after a few repetitions. When using a pack, llamas can carry about 25%-30% of their body weight for several miles.
One of the main uses for llamas at the time of the Spanish conquest was to bring down ore from the mines in the mountains. Gregory de Bolivar estimated that in his day, as many as three hundred thousand were employed in the transport of produce from the Potosi mines alone, but since the introduction of horses, mules, and donkeys, the importance of the llama as a beast of burden has greatly diminished.
The Inca deity Urcuchillay was depicted in the form of a multicolored llama. The Moche people frequently placed llamas and llama parts in the burials of important people, as offerings or provisions for the afterlife. The Moche culture of Pre-Columbian Peru depicted llamas quite realistically in their ceramics.
The Llama (Lama Glama) hair is coarser than Alpaca hair. However, if dehaired, it can be as soft as alpaca.
Some 65% of the world's Llamas live in the high plateau region of Bolivia and Peru.
The Llama spit, but all are capable of doing so. "Spit" is somewhat euphemistic; occasionally the projectile contains air, saliva and acidic stomach contents (generally a green grassy mix) and projects it onto their chosen target. Spitting is mostly reserved for other Llamas, but Llama will occasionally spit at humans that, for example, take away food.
In addition to fibre both the llama and alpaca are used as a source of meat in South America and their dung is dried for fuel.
A TABLE OF THE AVERAGE DIAMETER OF SOME OF THE FINEST, NATURAL FIBRES
FIBRE DIAMETER (Micrometres)
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