One of the major export items of Peru is the excellent wool, which is valued all over the world. This unique product comes from the alpaca, a close relative of the camel.
Where do alpacas live? What do they eat and why is their wool worth its weight in gold?
Description of the species
A relative of the vicuña, these animals were domesticated as early as 6,000 years ago. Small adults grow to 100-120 cm, they weigh 50-80 kg.
Their muzzle is flattened, and they have long bangs that cover their eyes. Its limbs are bipalate, with curved claws. Thanks to this structure, alpaca herds do not trample meadows and fields. The upper jaw has no teeth, but there are strong lateral incisors underneath. This allows the animal to reach the food with its lips and chew it with its side teeth.
Features of the coat
The alpaca’s special pride is its wool. It has over 50 natural colors, is hypoallergenic and fat-free. In addition, the animal’s wool is three times stronger and much warmer than sheep’s wool. It repels moisture and keeps clean for a long time. Wool products do not lose their original look and brightness for a long time.
Such properties make products made of alpaca wool extremely popular, despite the high cost.
Where do alpacas live?
The Peruvian highlands and the highland areas of the Andes are inhabited by the vast majority of the population of these animals. Flocks can also be found in Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina. Some animals make their home in the northern part of Chile.
What animals eat
Alpacas are unassuming, their diet does not shine with variety. It includes:
- tree and shrub shoots;
Domesticated animals graze in meadows where clover or alfalfa are specially planted.
Most of the livestock lead a semi-wild existence. They are only caught to cut their wool. There are also farms that specialize in raising alpacas.
In nature, animals gather in small groups that consist of one male and several (3 to 10 females). The hierarchy within them is rigid; outsider males are not allowed close.
Alpacas live a daytime lifestyle, preferring to rest at night to digest what they have eaten during the day.
Despite being well adapted to the mountains, animals graze only on horizontal areas of land. Their fur characteristics allow them to survive calmly in the harsh conditions of the highlands.
By character, these relatives of camels are peaceful, overly curious, and shy. They spit from time to time, as any representatives of this family, but always do it toward their fellows. People do not get spit, even coming close.
They are intelligent, spotless-cut animals who love to frolic or bathe in water.
Their average lifespan reaches 20 years.
How alpacas breed
Their mating season lasts all year round. The male covers all the females in his herd. Females can become pregnant during the year. Offspring usually appears once every two years.
The nurturing process takes approximately 11 months. An emerged baby is on its feet within an hour of giving birth. Newborns rarely weigh more than one kilogram, but gain weight quickly. Intensive growth continues for about two years. By the end of this period, the young reach sexual maturity.
Attempts to breed alpacas in the wild outside of their habitat have failed. However, they are successfully bred on farms in Europe, North America and Australia.