Alpacas are known as " New World Camelids"; that is because they originate from South America; mainly Peru, but also from Chilie and Bolivia. They are kept, in their native countries, primarily for their fleece which provides a source of living for the peoples of the high plains of the Andes.
It is their environment in the Andes that has given them the beautiful fibre that is so desired. Alpaca fibre is traded on the world market as one of only five "noble" fibres and reaches very good prices. White fibre carries a premium as it can be dyed to any shade but alpaca comes in 22 recognised colours and shades with more being recognised in the mills of Peru. That is not to say that all alpaca is luxurious, it has to be uniform in it's fineness and below 25 micron which is the "prickle" factor bar and which is why we are all striving for finer, more uniform fleeces.
Since their introduction and the explosion of ownership seen in the last few years, alpacas have adapted to other varied roles; they are used as "guard" animals deterring foxes from taking lambs or poultry; they are, by nature, curious and so have been able to work in therapy situations both for those with special needs and the elderly in particular. They have entered the tourist industry acting as attractions, or for walking/trekking and even as guests at weddings.