Visitor favourite, Daphne, and her best friend Boris lead the camelid crew! If they aren’t up close and looking for a scratch, they’re running and jumping all around the pond!
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Historically, llamas inhabited the rugged habitats of the Andes Mountains in South America. They were farmed here and have since become domesticated and so are found globally.
Llamas, alongside camels, alpacas, guanacos and vicunas, are camelids. Hence, they have a typical camel-like body shape, but without the humps! They have three stomachs, and like all camelids, have a long and complex large intestine. This is beneficial for them to survive in arid habitats, because the larger the colon, the more water, vitamins, and nutrients are reabsorbed from food waste. Therefore, the food eaten is efficiently digested to maximise the nutritional benefits! Llamas have short tongues, and so are unable to grab food like many other herbivorous mammals. However, their split lips are prehensile and so help to effectively manoeuvre and grab vegetation to allow their protruding lower incisors to cut.
These browsing herbivores have evolved eating the sparse mountain vegetation they can find, such as low shrubs and lichens. They do also graze on grasses and hays, and are commonly fed leafy vegetables.
These herd animals are usually timid and mind their own business. However, both genders are aggressive towards predators, and will kick, bite, charge, and spit to defend themselves. This makes them excellent guard animals, especially because they are also very vocal; calling loudly to warn other members of the herd if a predator approaches.
Unlike most mammals, llamas do not have an oestrus cycle where an egg is automatically released at regular intervals. Instead, these ‘induced ovulators’ release an egg 24-36 hours after copulation, which occurs in a peculiar lying-down position. After about 11 months, a single cria is born. The young cria are up on their feet and running around after only an hour after being born.
Llamas have a very high content of hemoglobin in their blood. This has evolved for llamas as hemoglobin carries oxygen around the body and so would help them to survive amongst high altitudes, where oxygen levels are much lower than at sea level!