Alpacas are one of the world's earliest domesticated species having been around for some 6,000 years; They are derived from the native Vicuna of South America, a Cites 1 listed species renowned for it's fine fibre that sells for around £5,000 per kilo! They split into 2 species, Huacaya and Suri with the latter making up only around 8% of the world's total population.
Alpacas became of great value to the Incan peoples being used as a main stay of their economy and being used as a currency within society; they provided fibre for cloth, although suri fibre was reserved for royalty, a product to barter and a source of food and offering to the gods. Often baby alpacas, known as cria, were buried with a similar coloured guinea pig on the threshold of a new dwelling as a good luck charm!
Unfortunately, the fate of the alpaca lay in the hands of this great civilisation and when they were conquered by the Spanish in 1566 they were slaughtered in their millions to make way for sheep and cattle. The remaining herds and shepherds were driven high up into the plains of the Andes where they survive to this day. Unfortunately, the loss of the Incan has also meant the loss of generations of alpaca knowledge, some survives but it is in the format of knotted ropes for which we have no key.The loss of this knowledge and the rapid decimation of the alpaca and it's keepers allowed the cross-breeding of alpacas with llamas