Tuesday, 10 June 2014


Alpacas, llama, animal
The earliest evidence for domestication of both llama and alpaca comes from archaeological sites located in the Puna region of the Peruvian Andes, at between ~4000-4900 meters (13,000-14,500 feet) above sea level. At Telarmachay Rockshelter, located 170 kilometers (105 miles) northeast of Lima, faunal evidence from the long-occupied site traces an evolution of human subsistence related to the camelids. The first hunters in the region (~9000-7200 years ago), lived on generalized hunting of guanaco, vicuña and huemul deer. Between 7200-6000 years ago, they switched to specialized hunting of guanaco and vicuña. Control of domesticated alpacas and llamas was in effect by 6000-5500 years ago, and a predominant herding economy based on llama and alpaca was established at Telarmachay by 5500 years ago.
Evidence for domestication of llama and alpaca accepted by scholars is changes in dental morphology, the presence of fetal and neonatal camelids in archaeological deposits, and an increasing reliance on camelids indicated by frequency of camelid remains in deposits. Wheeler has estimated that by 3800 years ago, the people at Telarmachay based 73% of their diet on camelids.
 The Alpaca is the smaller of the two main breeds of domesticated camelids from South America. It exists only in a domesticated state and was bred by the Incas and other “Indian” tribes in the Andes, prior to the sixteenth century Spanish Conquest of that country.


      For some years Alpacas were believed to have evolved from the wild Guanaco of South America but recent DNA testing has shown that the Alpaca elvolved from the wild Vicuña. (For details see » Origins and Relationships). Nevertheless, Alpacas and Llamas can interbreed and produce fertile offspring.
      The earliest evidence for domestication of both llama and alpaca comes from archaeological sites located in the Puna region of the Peruvian Andes, at between ~4000-4900 meters (13,000-14,500 feet) above sea level. At Telarmachay Rockshelter, located 170 kilometers (105 miles) northeast of Lima, faunal evidence from the long-occupied site traces an evolution of human subsistence related to the camelids. The first hunters in the region (~9000-7200 years ago), lived on generalized hunting of guanaco, vicuña and huemul deer. Between 7200-6000 years ago, they switched to specialized hunting of guanaco and vicuña. Control of domesticated alpacas and llamas was in effect by 6000-5500 years ago, and a predominant herding economy based on llama and alpaca was established at Telarmachay by 5500 years ago.
Evidence for domestication of llama and alpaca accepted by scholars is changes in dental morphology, the presence of fetal and neonatal camelids in archaeological deposits, and an increasing reliance on camelids indicated by frequency of camelid remains in deposits. Wheeler has estimated that by 3800 years ago, the people at Telarmachay based 73% of their diet on camelids.
 The Alpaca is the smaller of the two main breeds of domesticated camelids from South America. It exists only in a domesticated state and was bred by the Incas and other “Indian” tribes in the Andes, prior to the sixteenth century Spanish Conquest of that country.
      For some years Alpacas were believed to have evolved from the wild Guanaco of South America but recent DNA testing has shown that the Alpaca elvolved from the wild Vicuña. (For details see » Origins and Relationships). Nevertheless, Alpacas and Llamas can interbreed and produce fertile offspring.
      Although occasionally eaten, Alpacas were kept mainly for their long, lustrous fleece. They were highly valued and even revered by their owners. Until 1863 they were very difficult to obtain outside their country of origin, with South American governments, especially that of Peru, banning their export.
Although occasionally eaten, Alpacas were kept mainly for their long, lustrous fleece. They were highly valued and even revered by their owners. Until 1863 they were very difficult to obtain outside their country of origin, with South American governments, especially that of Peru, banning their export.
      Alpacas were first imported into New Zealand in 1865 by the Provincial Government (in Wellington), which found them unproductive and sold them to the Rhodes Brothers at Purau on Banks Peninsula in 1869. Initially there were five Alpacas at Purau, and although they bred, the total number never exceeded fifteen. One account notes that “they never mixed with the sheep and always stuck to the part of the run where they had been first turned out. They would not work for a dog; so the shepherds mustered them with stockwhips, like cattle. They were brutes to shear. Their legs had to be tied to stop them kicking and their heads bagged to stop them spitting green slime. The shearers refused to shear them; so the shepherds (or probably more often the manager) had to do them.”   This early introduction appears to have died out. Another two that were imported to Oamaru, North Otago, in 1878, did not breed.




The llama is the larger of the domestic camelids, and resembles the guanaco in almost all aspects of behavior and morphology. Llama is the Quechua term for L. glama, which is known as qawra by Aymara speakers. Domesticated from the guanaco in the Peruvian Andes some 6000-7000 years ago, the llama was moved into lower elevations by 3800 years ago, and by 1400 years ago, they were part of herds on the northern coasts of Peru and Ecuador. In particular, the Inca used llamas to move their imperial pack trains into southern Colombia and central Chile.
Llamas range in height from 109-119 centimeters (43-47 inches) at the withers, and in weight from 130-180 kilograms (285-400 pounds), and in the past, llamas were used as beasts of burden, as well as for meat, hides and fuel from their dung. They have upright ears and a leaner body with less woolly legs than the alpacas.
According to Spanish records, the Inca had a hereditary caste of herding specialists, with an emphasis placed on breeding animals with specific colored pelts for sacrificing to different deities. Information on flock size and colors are believed to have been kept using the quipu. Herds were both individually-owned and communal.
In the mid 1980s the New Zealand and Chilean governments came to an agreement allowing Alpacas to be imported direct from South America. This was the start of a new farming venture in New Zealand with hopes for commercial success in the production of camelid fibre. Today there are six to ten thousand Alpacas in this country. (The entire world population is no more than about two million.)
      Alpaca fibre comes in a range of colours (22 different shades are recognized), and it is used for high quality cloth and textiles as well as being incorporated in hand-knitting yarn. Each animal produces between 3.5 and 6 kilograms of fleece annually. (See also » Suri Alpaca.)
      These attractive animals are often highly priced but have some advantages over other farm livestock, especially on smallholdings. They require a low level of care and are easily maintained animals which can survive on grass and water. Unlike sheep, they do not get footrot or flystrike and do not require docking. They defecate in selected areas and their padded hooves are easy on fragile pastures. Alpacas are modified ruminants, not only eating less grass than other animals but converting it far more efficiently.

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