2022/2023 Alpaca Owners Guide
The Spanish conquest of the Incan empire was swift. Motivated by their quest for silver and gold and by religious intolerance, the Conquistadors subjugated the native Incas and seized their land. They recognized the significant role the alpaca played in the lives of the native people. Not only did the alpaca hold great sociological and religious significance for the natives, but the alpaca sustained them as it was their primary source of food, clothing, and fuel, especially in the rural areas. The Spaniards reasoned if they could deprive the native people of their alpacas, it would be a simple matter to gain control. They slaughtered the alpacas by the millions. Peru vian historians estimate that as much as 90% of the world’s alpaca population was killed during the 1500’s. At the same time, about 80% of the native population in the rural areas also died from disease and starvation, due to the slaughter of their life-sustaining alpacas. The native people who survived fled with the remnants of their alpaca herds to the harsh and remote area of the Andes called the Altiplano, a high mountain desert, ranging in eleva tion from approximately 10,000 to 16,000 feet (3,500–5,000m). There, in this very dry, windy, forbidding place, they were able to take refuge with their alpacas. Europeans Discover Alpaca Fleece The Spanish colonists, so determined to eradicate the alpaca as a symbol of idolatry, were never able to appreciate the
to suits and coats. Alpaca is regarded today by many fashion designers as a preeminent fiber with which to work, whether used by itself, or in combination with other luxury fibers such as angora, mohair, silk, or cashmere. The Recent Struggle for Survival In the more recent past, the alpaca population again suffered enormous losses at the hands of men. Shifting economic forces in Latin America, years of drought, and fifteen years of systematic alpaca slaughter by terrorists known as Sendero Luminoso (the “Shining Path”) wreaked havoc on both the human and alpaca populations in prime alpaca growing regions. Like the Conquistadors five centuries earlier, Sendero Luminoso targeted the alpacas as the means by which they could capture and retain control over rural areas and the people who lived there. In Peru, the alpaca population may have decreased by as much as 50% in some regions from 1967 to 1992. Against this devastating economic backdrop, the govern ments of Bolivia, Chile, and Peru eased their restrictions against exporting alpacas to provide a source of income for the rural farmers. Breeders and importers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United States, England, and Israel were among the first to go to South America to select a few animals for importation into their countries. Not only did this present an opportunity to save the alpaca from an uncertain future in its native lands, but it also presented tremendous economic possibilities for those involved with establishing new herds in other parts of the world. When the alpacas were exported from their native lands, they were carefully screened to ensure that only healthy, vig orous, and conformationally sound animals were selected. They were transported either by ship or by plane, and kept in quarantine for several months to make sure no diseases were transmitted to existing livestock. Importations into the U.S. began on a commercial basis in 1984 and ended by a vote of industry members in 1998. Qualified animals imported during that period were issued a pedigree registration, and the North American alpaca breeding industry began.
wonders of alpaca fiber. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that Sir Titus Salt, an Englishman, made an accidental discovery in a warehouse in England. He found a bundle of alpaca fiber in a shipment of imported sheep’s wool and processed it into cloth. From this chance beginning grew a
Sir Titus Salt
new commercial enterprise. Sir Titus Salt saw in alpaca fiber the potential for making soft yarns and garments, and set about the task of modifying the equipment at his mill to accommodate the fiber. He was soon supplying luxurious alpaca cloth to the British royal family and later to the aristocracy of continental Europe. Thanks to Sir Titus, the modern world now enjoys the luxury of a wide range of alpaca products, from sweaters and scarves
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