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LlamaLlama The llama family is made up of those smaller members of the camel family that live in the Andes mountains of South America. They are agile, long-legged animals that feed on grass or browse on plants. There are four species: llama, alpaca, guanaco and vicuña. The llama and alpaca are domesticated animals—used as beats of burden by the Incas and other Andean civilizations long before Europeans arrived. Llamas can carry heavy loads for miles across rough terrain, while alpacas are bred for their fine wool. The guanaco and vicuña still live in the wild. They are also prized for their wool, which means that they are vulnerable to hunters. Llamas graze on grass and, like cows, bring up their food and chew it again as cud. They can survive by eating many different kinds of plants, from which they obtain all the water they need. Llamas are social animals and live with other llamas as a herd. They are intelligent and are able to learn simple tasks.


Guanacos and vicuñas

VicuñasVicuñasGuanacoGuanacoGuanacos graze the slopes of the Andes mountains, or browse on the low slopes of the Patagonian desert. They get moisture from the plants they feed on so they never need to drink. Guanacos were domesticated to become llamas. Millions of guanacos once roamed the pampas grasslands, but their numbers have been greatly reduced by hunting for their wool and skins. They are also shot by sheep farmers who see them as competition for grazing and blame them for transmitting diseases to their flocks.

The Inca emperors valued vicuñas highly for their wool. It was against the law for anyone other than members of the Inca royal family to wear clothes made of vicuña wool.

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