Thursday, October 18, 2012

Guanaco

Lama guanicoe
The wild Guanaco is a close, genus sharing relative of the domesticated Llama. In fact, it is believed that Llamas actually came from Guanacos around 6,000 years ago. These elegant, slender Camelids live in the arid, mountainous regions of South America. About 90% of the wild Guanacos now live in Argentina.

Guanacos are one of the largest wild herbivores in South America. Though they look slim and lanky, they can actually weigh more than 250lbs. Guanacos both graze and browse, and have a split upper lip that allows them to grasp at vegetation better. They eat many different kinds of plants, and rarely need to drink water since they derive it from their food.

Guanacos typically live in small herds that consist of a dominant male, several females, and their offspring. Young males are eventually kicked out of these herds, and will sometimes form small bachelor herds. These groups are important for the development of the young males, as they learn how to fight and maintain dominance. After 3-4 years in one of these herds, the males will embark and try to challenge older males for their females and territory.
Young Guanaco

Unlike Llamas and Alpacas, which come in a whole mess of colors, Guanacos are almost always light brown with even lighter undersides and a greyish face. They are, in fact, used for skins and wool like their relatives, and the fiber is very soft and warm. Unfortunately, excess hunting (along with other threats) has led to a sharp decline in the population. When Europeans first arrived in South America there were around 50 million of these guys, and the number is now around 600,000. Habitat loss and competition from livestock are other causes for the drop.

Luckily, the population is currently stable, thanks to habitat protection and regulated trade. While poaching does continue, the animals have a large enough range and population size to be listed at Least Concern.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : South America
Size : Shoulder height up to 4ft (1.2m), Weight up to 264lbs (120kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Artiodactyla
Family : Camelidae -- Genus : Lama -- Species : L. guanicoe

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