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Nature Scenes: Llamas are sure-footed pack animals who are of great use to South American Indians
By Lynn Bowen
posted Jul 21, 2014 - 9:44:42am
Llamas are interesting animals that are members of the camel family, yet never are found in the wild. Most herds of llamas are maintained by the Indians of Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina to transport goods on the Andean plateaus and mountains.
Long ago, the Inca civilization bred guanacos, which are a type of llama, to be used as beasts of burden. These animals are still wild in Chile and Argentina. They are tan with a pale underside, and are slightly smaller than standard llamas.
Llamas are 5.5 to 6 feet tall measured to the top of their head, and they weigh 260-400 pounds. They are slender-bodied with long legs and necks and small heads.
Their special feet are cloven; that is, they have two toes that enable them to be very sure-footed. They have soft foot pads much like a dog’s, making it easy to grip where they walk.
Their fur varies in colors and patterns of white, brown, black, peach and gray. They have big brown eyes that notice everything, and also have excellent hearing.
These rather docile animals have a temper if pushed to their limits, and will spit, hiss, kick or lie down in retaliation. Since they are helpers to the Indians, surely they are treated with kindness and understanding. After all, their presence is much more than just being a pet like a dog or cat!
Llamas breed from November to May. After the 11-month gestation period, the female gives birth to one baby.
The diet of llamas is simply grass and other plants. Their life expectancy is about 20 years.
Llamas are not only pack animals, carrying up to 75 pounds of goods, but are also used for food, wool, hides, and tallow for candles. Their dried dung is used for fuel.
Many South Americans depend on these mammals to exist. But here in Central Florida and other parts of the U.S., they are interesting, useful animals at a zoo for children of all ages to observe.
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cutline: This handsome llama seems very content living at a zoo where children of all ages can admire him.
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