The Alpacas belong to the Camelid species of mammals. The study of prehistoric life shows that this genus was first seen in the North America continent roughly 33 to 50 million years ago.
One of the ancient fossils which resemble that of alpacas was found in the states of Florida and California. The Incan tribes of Peru have put the alpaca on a pedestal in their civilization. The regal Incas clothed themselves in alpaca fur. In fact, this animal became part of many Inca rituals. The natives alluded to it as the “fiber of the gods.”
The Value of Alpaca Fiber
While the native Incas saw the potential, Spanish colonizers did not see the value of this fiber. In fact, numerous alpaca animals were butchered by these conquerors or brought to the Andes Mountains. It was only during the middle part of the 19th century that a nobleman from England (Sir Titus Salt) saw the distinctive properties of alpaca fleece. This enterprising English entrepreneur noticed that the fiber was more durable than sheep wool. Aside from this, the toughness did not reduce the sheer quality of the material. Sir Titus Salt started manufacturing velvety alpaca clothing which quickly became popular in the rest of Europe. The fabric was preferred by the Royal family and eventually spread out to the fashion centers of Europe.
The Alpaca Industry Today
At present, the seat of the alpaca enterprise is in Arequipa, Peru. Alpaca wool and other products obtained from this animal are sold largely in Japan and parts of the European continent. The reality is almost 100 percent of these animals can be found only in three countries – Bolivia, Chile and Peru. There used to be no rules governing the exportation of alpacas to other parts of the world. These have been regarded as national treasures in each of the three countries so it was not necessary to send the animals abroad. However, the governments of said nations negotiated required protocols to export some of these mammals to the United States, New Zealand, Israel, Australia, Canada and England. At least one percent of alpacas can be found in these countries.
Sometime in the 1920s, alpaca products experienced regeneration. Nearly 60 years after, the production of alpaca yarn become considerable and it gradually became a valuable economic resource in Peru. Today, it claims to own more than 85 percent of the global population of these rare animals.
Only a small number of alpacas could be found in North American zoos and private sanctuaries till the early part of 1980. The temporary lifting of importation constraints from1983 to 1984 allowed the shipment of at least 600 head from Chile to North America. A second herd came in from Chile in 1988. Two years after, alpacas were brought to the continent from the three Latin American countries, Australia and New Zealand. Unfortunately, importation was stopped due to the shutting down of the Alpaca Registry in 1999.
The alpaca is similar to the camel and is the smallest of domesticated Camelids in South America. It has become world-renowned because of the rich and fine fiber and its gentle disposition.