Who could believe that the natural alpaca habitat is a harsh, unforgiving land? Alpacas come from the Altiplano region of the Andes Mountain in South America. Altiplano means high plain. Alpacas live at the 12,000 to 14,000 ft level.
It is a very hard life for humans and animals alike. Vegetation is scarce, the air is thin, and the temperature can change by as much as forty degrees in one day. The vegetation that exists is mostly tough clumps of grass, Thola bushes, and occasionally clumps of Quenua trees. There are volcanos that have left volcanic flows. It rains, snows, has freezing temperatures, intense sunlight, and powerful winds. Pumas prey on altiplano livestock.
Surviving in this harsh alpaca habitat meant an animal had to be hardy. After seven years of owning alpaca we have discovered how hardy these animals can be. They are stoic and they hardly ever get ill.
Knowing the alpacas background of its original environment helps us to understand the alpaca and give better care for this wonderful animal.
The alpacas padded feet are environmentally friendly. This adaptation was probably needed so they didn't destroy the scarce vegetable matter. Same is probably true for why they don't pull the grass out by its roots.
If alpacas didn't have their dense fleece, they probably would not have survived the harsh winters on the altiplano. Alpacas can go days without water and food.
Since there were times when food wasn't available, alpacas adapted to going without for awhile. With food scarcity, an alpacas fleece will grow less. An alpaca will borrow nutrients from other parts of its body to continue life. Keeping alpacas at their optimal weight means your fleece will be denser and grow better.
Alpacas actually need less feed than most other animals. It only takes 1.5 to 2% of an alpacas body weight of feed to sustain a healthy alpaca. The alpacas three-compartment stomach converts grass and hay to energy with extreme efficiency so they eat less. The harsh conditions they live in on the altiplano makes this survival adaptation a necessity.
Alpacas don't drink a lot of water. This is another adaptation of the unforgiving altiplano. Clean water should always be available for your alpacas, though.
Alpacas go without food and water in their natural alpaca habitat, but doing so stresses an alpaca. When alpacas fear for their survival they will abort babies. Keep your alpacas free of stress by making sure that each alpaca is able to feed freely and have plenty of water and you will have less cria losses.
An alpaca is really a very fast animal. Probably developed to survive escape of the Puma. Not giving an alpaca enough room to exercise keeps them from doing what comes natural to an alpaca and could be another source of stress. Keep them in large enough pastures where they can run.
Knowing the natural alpaca habitat can help you understand your alpaca and provide for their needs. A lot is still not known about alpacas, but the industry has made huge steps in learning about caring for alpacas.
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