Llamas are even toed ungulates , whose closest relatives are……camels. Llamas and camels belong to a family of animals known as camelids.
There are four South American members of the camel family. The two domesticated ones are the Llama and the Alpaca, both of which you can see here at the zoo. ‘Domesticated’ means they have been bred specifically by humans for a particular purpose. Llamas are used for their wool, meat and for carrying loads on their backs along the high mountain trails in the Andes. Llamas have been living with humans for 4,000 years. The Incas, who domesticated llamas, had no horses, no wheel or carts, so all loads were moved by llamas. You can tell the llamas and alpacas apart because the alpacas are smaller and have shorter legs .
The two other wild types of the family are the vicuna and guanaco. The vicuna is the alpaca’s ancestor and has a extremely fine wool.
We have nine llamas at the Bowmanville Zoo. Most live as a group, but Frick lives with our flock of mouflon sheep as a guard llama. He is the very proud protector of his little flock.
Facts & Myths
Llamas really do spit when they are annoyed or being protective of their babies. But what llamas spit isn’t saliva. It is actually the contents of the animals 1st stomach. It’s bright green and yellow and stinks appallingly!
Only 10,000 years ago llamas and camels lived in North America, too. They are both Canadian animals.
Llamas can’t be ridden, but can pull carts. When a llama thinks the load is too heavy it just sits down.
Once a year all the llamas (and the alpacas, too), are shorn by professional llama shearers. The heavy winter coat of wool is removed to ensure they are comfortable in the summer heat. During the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the wool from our llamas was donated to absorb oil on polluted beaches to assist the clean up. The Bowmanville Zoo’s llamas helped out in their own small way.
Llamas are now farmed all over the world, mostly for their wool, but they are very effective guard animals. Farmers use llamas to keep their flocks of sheep safe. If a guard llama sees a coyote near the flock it will scream and charge the coyote, spitting at it. If that doesn’t work it will bite and pound at the coyote with its front feet. We use llamas here at the zoo to protect our new born sheep and goats.
Llamas at the Bowmanville Zoo
Frick and Frac are our oldest two llamas, both are stars and appeared in Peter Benchley’s AMAZON TV series
Visitors can feed the llamas and feel their wool. Monkey biscuits suitable for feeding many of the zoos animals including the lemurs are available at the entrance and cost $2 per bag.
Never feed any of the zoo animals food that has not been provided by zoo staff. You could make them very sick.