Alpaca breeders and farmers in the US have done a good job introducing alpacas into the American pop culture in the last 10-15 years. Many people know what an alpaca is and how it looks like.
There are, however, many things the people don’t know about these funny looking animals. In this blog entry, I want to talk about how the place where alpacas live affects the quality of the fiber they produce.
Alpacas are native to the Andes high mountains. They live mostly in the Andean region between Bolivia and Peru. For alpacas to produce good fiber quality, they need to live in the right place, among other things. So what is the right place like?
I visited one of those places in Bolivia, the “Sajama National Park”. Besides being incredibly beautiful, what makes this place so special for alpacas? Let’s review the 3 main factors that make the Sajama National Park a great place for alpacas to live and produce great fiber.
High Altitude: Alpacas love to live in places 3,800 meters above the sea level and higher. The Sajama National park lies in high altitude, with elevations ranging from 4,200 to 6,542 meters above the sea level.
Cold Climate: As you can imagine, the weather at 3,800 meters above the sea level and higher is cold all year round. Instead of breaking the seasons into winter, spring, summer, and fall, the seasons there are divided into 2: rainy and dry. One cooler than the other, but in the end, both cold!
Wetlands or “Bofedales”: Alpacas love to live near mountains that have snow all-year-round. The constant ice melting during the daytime from these mountains creates swamp-like wetlands or “bofedales” in the areas around them. These wetlands create a very particular microenvironment that produces alpaca’s favorite food. This food is made up of green pastures native to the Andes.
After reading these last paragraphs, take a close look at the picture below. You will be able to see alpacas grazing in the wetlands or “bofedales” around the Sajama Mountain. I personally find it neat that with a brief explanation, all of a sudden this picture says it all!
Yes, alpacas thrive and love to live in places like the Sajama. This is also where they produce the finest hair. Why? Because they find the right environmental conditions for that: altitude, cold weather, and the best diet!
Next time you are looking to buy that cozy alpaca sweater or scarf, you will want the fiber in that garment to come from alpacas that live in one of these areas. That way, your garment will not only be warm, but soft!