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Camelids of the Andes

by Anna Hufnagl and Hannah Platt

General information

Camels are famous inhabitants of the deserts of Arica and Asia. However, they have relatives in South America: vicuñas, guanacos, alpacas and llamas live in the Andes - partly wild, partly domesticated. Meet them in their habitats!

Click into the title image to visit the various species of camelids living in the Andes. However, one of the animals has missed its way and is wrong here - which one is it? And what are the names of the species in the correct order?

Show solution

The sheep, of course, is not a camelid. However, it has been introducd from Europe and is commonly seen as livestock - particularly in Patagonia, but also in many other places.

Visiting the camelids

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Meet the South American relatives of the camels of Africa and Asia. To do so, click on one of the arrows or into the graphics.

On the way to the Paso de Jama, at above 4.000 m asl., those who carefully observe the landscape might discover small herds of Vicuñas. These camelids live on the Altiplano and - in contrast to some of the tourists visiting the area - are well adapted to the high elevation. Vicuñas are shy wild animals who feel well in the vast highland areas. For the Inca, this animal and its wool were sacred. Only the rulers were allowed to dress themselves in clothes made from that noble material. The fine Vicuña wool is rare and expensive still today. The animals are strictly protected by law and the traditional shearing only takes place every two years. Vicuñas are the smallest among all camelids, and they have a slim, gracile figure. Have you already visited Cafayate together with Anna Alpaca? The woolly alpaca is the domesticated form of the Vicuña: it is a production animal bred by human. It is kept as a pack animal on the one hand, and for its fine and warming wool on the other hand. Products made of alpaca wool are popular all around the world, because this type of wool is less heavy than sheep wool, soft, and skin-friendly.

References and links

Wikipedia article on the alpaca [Access source]

Wikipedia article on the guanaco [Access source]

Wikipedia article on the llama [Access source]

Wikipedia article on the vicuña [Access source]

Wikipedia article on the camelids [Access source]

This contribution was revised, extended, and translated from German by Martin Mergili.