The llama (Lama glama), originates from South America. Domesticated by the Incas 4,000 to 5,000 years ago, llamas have a domesticated cousin, the alpaca, and wild cousins the guanacos and vicuñas. Llamas, classified as camelids, are close relatives to camels although they do not have a hump. Llama owners use them for their fiber and for carrying loads. In some regions, llamas are consumed for human sustenance.
The llama's native geography extends across the Andes Mountains, which includes the countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru. Llamas live throughout the Americas, Europe and Australia as domesticated livestock. They tend to live at altitudes between 7,500 to 13,100 feet above sea level, preferring temperate and mountainous areas.
Llamas, alpacas and sheep will graze together, as they seldom compete for the same food. Llamas feed on tall, coarse bunchgrasses, low shrubs, lichens and mountain vegetation when not grazing on pasture or fed hay. Llamas tend to have a more diverse diet than alpacas and sheep that eat forbs and low-growing grasses. Llamas will eat plants from drier areas, getting most of their water from the plants. Llamas have about as much impact on the environment as large deer.
As a high altitude dweller, llamas have developed several adaptations. They have high amounts of hemoglobin, or red blood cells, and their corpuscles are oval, not rounded. These adaptations help the llama live in rarefied air. Their teeth and gums developed to clip tough vegetation. They have only one upper incisor; the lower incisors cut plants between them and the upper hard gums.
About 70 percent of llamas live in Bolivia. According to the book "Los Mamiferos de la Argentinia y la Region Austral de Sudamerica by Parera," there were about 3 million llamas in the world as of 2002. They are not considered threatened or endangered.
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