Alpacas and Llamas are no pets!

They look cuddly, and recently you can also find them on meadows and pastures in North America: However, some of their owners do not know how to keep them species-appropriate.

Despite their cute appearance, alpacas and Llamas are not suitable as cuddly animals

 

Alpacas and Llamas

Both alpacas and llamas belong to the camel family. However, unlike Bactrian camels and dromedaries, which live mainly in Asia and Africa, the camels of the New World – in this case, South America – are humpless and smaller. About 7000 years ago, indigenous peoples domesticated the wild ancestors of the llama and alpaca – the Vicuña and the Guanaco.

Wild Living Vicuña in South America

Their original home is in western South America, in the grasslands and scrublands of the high Andes. The much larger llamas are also at home there. For some years now, both animal species have been seen more and more frequently in North America. Offers such as alpaca hikes, yoga with alpacas or pictures of funny alpaca hairstyles are booming. But how are the animals doing with it? Do they feel at all comfortable in our latitudes?

Heat is a Problem for Alpacas and Llamas

While the llama was mainly used to carry loads through the highlands, the alpaca traditionally served as a wool supplier. Due to its high fiber quality, alpaca wool is still highly sought after today. It insulates well, can absorb a lot of moisture and is suitable for allergy sufferers. The wool of llamas can also be processed but is usually coarser and less valuable.

In the 1970s, the first animals were imported to North America and kept outside zoological gardens. They are Mainly kept for their valuable wool.
This fine and exclusive fibers mainly grow because Alpacas and Llamas are adapted to cold environments!

Because of your big eyes, thick eyelashes, fluffy fur – many suddenly wanted to have such an animal even as a cute pet. Alpacas and Llamas are not suitable as pets, however.

Llamas and alpacas do not want to be pawed all day long.

It takes some courage and a courageous approach to keep the animals, which does not fit at all with the image of llamas and alpacas as petting and cuddly animals!

Alpacas and llamas keep a certain distance from each other in the wild and also know how to defend themselves against attackers. They do not want to be groped all day! Too close contact with humans can lead to malformation and behavioural disorders in animals.

How does species-appropriate husbandry for Alpacas look like?

In principle, keeping alpacas and llamas in some parts of North America is not a problem. However, Llamas and alpacas may only be kept in groups.

The New World Camelids should be provided with at least 300 square feet for up to six adult animals, with an additional 25 square feet for each additional adult animal.

They need constant access to the outdoor enclosure or can be kept outside year-round, provided a shelter or barn is available to accommodate all animals.

Keeping them with other species such as goats or donkeys to replace conspecifics is strongly discouraged.  Although contact with humans should be kept to a minimum for range animals, alpacas are firmly dependent on humans as domesticated animals: They must undergo regular veterinary checkups, as both teeth and nails of the callouses require a periodic professional inspection.

It is also necessary to shear the wool regularly, as long fur leads to restricted movement and makes the animals susceptible to disease-causing parasites.

Lastly, the animals’ diet is not regulated by canned food from the pet food market and is very demanding: alpacas are grazing animals – their metabolism is adapted to a diet low in nutrients but rich in roughage.

As a result, ruminants eat about 5 percent of their body weight daily – that is, between 2.5 to 3.5 kg depending on the size and weight of the animal.

A balanced alpaca diet includes hay with appropriate protein content for free disposal -bread, fruit, vegetables, sugar and grains, on the other hand, lead to stomach acidity with severe health problems.