Animal Fact File: Llamas

The llama has a scientific name ‘Lama Glama’ which is a South American camelid that has been domesticated for its good quality wool, meat (however people only eat llama meat in South America, but not in the UK or the USA) and it use as a transportation animal. An adult llama can reach up to 1.9 m in height and weigh over 170 kg. A young llama is known as a cria which weighs about 10 kg when it is born. An adult llama is capable of carrying loads of 30 kg (which is around 25% of their body weight) and can carry this weight for around 10 miles or more in very rough and mountainous environments in a single day.

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Other uses for llamas include:

1) Breeding

2) Livestock guarding (it is well known that llamas will protect other livestock from predators and they will do this to the best of their ability, which makes them very useful animals).

3) Companion animals

The ancestors of modern day llamas came from North America around 40 million years ago. However around 5 million years ago they started to move to South America. At the end of the last ice age (around 10,000 years ago) camelids died out in North America, however the camelids that have migrated to South America have not only survived but thrived as a result.

The other camelids that inhabit the South American continent alongside the llama are:

1) The alpaca

2) The guanaco

3) The Vicuna

The alpaca and the llama are domesticated while the guanaco and vicuna remain untameable. The guanaco is relatively common in South America, while the vicuna is in danger of dying out (they number only around 5000 and their numbers are still declining).

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Llamas are very adaptable and hardy animals and rarely suffer from disease. However they can be affected by the following diseases and problems:

1) Leptospirosis

2) Tetanus

3) Enterotoxaemia

4) Parasites (both internal and external)

Llamas can eat a wide variety of vegetation (they can either browse or graze) – an interesting fact is that llamas have not one but 3 stomachs and like cows they will regurgitate food from their stomach and chew their cud. Llamas also need much less water compared to most mammals.

Llamas are docile and gentle animals, but get easily upset. A llama will spit when annoyed and make put a stone in its mouth and use that to act as a missile. Llamas are highly intelligent and are able to perform certain tricks and tasks in a very short space of time, meanwhile their cousins the alpacas are not as intelligent and they are more limited in what they can do.

Thank you for reading.