||Mountains of C. Peru, W. Bolivia, NE. Chile and NW. Argentina.
||14 - 18 months
|Number of Young
(Click for larger image)
There are 4 species in South America which are related to the camels – llama, alpaca, guanaco and vicuna. Llamas are the domesticated form of guanaco; alpaca are the domesticated form of vicuna. Llamas were first domesticated in Peru about 4000 – 5000 years ago and are believed to be the only animal domesticated for use as a beast of burden by the native people of the new world. At the time of the Spanish conquest 300,000 llamas were being used by the Incas at their silver mines. Llamas are capable of carrying a load of 96kg at a rate of 26km per day over rugged mountain terrain at an altitude of 5 000m. They can function well at high altitude as their blood contains more red corpuscles than other mammals and the haemoglobin has a much greater affinity for oxygen.
Although llama were mainly used as beasts of burden, native herdsmen also used the fleece of the llama to weave into clothing, the meat for food, the hide to make into sandals, the fat for making candles, the hairs braided into rope, and dried excrement was used as fuel.
Llama give birth to a single baby called a 'cria'. They usually give birth in the morning because in the high plains of the Andes the temperature drops below freezing every night. Births in the morning hours allow the newborn to dry before nightfall.
Llamas communicate with a series of ear, body and tail postures, as well as a shrill alarm call and a contented humming sound. They spit to warn off other llamas from their food or to establish dominance within the herd.
Llama have long, dense, fine wool ranging from brown to black. The hair on the head, neck and limbs is shorter than it is elsewhere.
©2009 Marwell Wildlife