The alpaca (Lama Pacos) is a species of South American camelid mammal. It is similar to, and often confused with, the llama. However, alpacas are often noticeably smaller than llamas. The two animals are closely related and can successfully crossbreed. Both species are believed to have been domesticated from their wild relatives, the vicuña and guanaco. There are two breeds of alpaca: the Suri alpaca and the Huacaya alpaca.
Alpacas are kept in herds that graze on the level heights of the Andes of Southern Peru, Western Bolivia, Ecuador, and Northern Chile at an altitude of 11,000 to 16,000 feet above sea level.
Alpacas communicate through body language. The most common is spitting when they are in distress, fearful, or mean to show dominance. Male alpacas are more aggressive than females, and tend to establish dominance of their herd group. In some cases, alpha males will immobilize the head and neck of a weaker or challenging male in order to show their strength and dominance.
Why They Matter
Alpacas could be the greenest animals on the planet. Down to the fact their hooves are softly padded which reduces environmental impact, Alpacas also produce more fleece than sheep and they have more effective eating and drinking habits than other grazing animals, which also reduces impact. They are finely suited to the harsh conditions of the Peruvian Andes, and the fact that the animals are not harmed during the shearing process means that they are highly sustainable.
Alpacas are not threatened today and can be found throughout the globe in captivity. The population declined drastically after the Spanish Conquistadors invaded the Andes mountains in 1532, after which 98% of the animals were destroyed. The Spanish also brought with them diseases that were fatal to alpacas.