What is what? While guanacos are the wild and somewhat smaller relatives of the llamas, the vicugnas are the little brothers and sisters of the alpacas. And finally, all are biologically related to the camels. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpaca
However, the alpacas (which, unlike llamas, do not spit) that I am about to visit at the “Alpaca Therapy Farm in Heidelberg-Hirtenaue” did not grow up in South America, but were bred in the Swabian Alb.
The extremely fine alpaca wool has been used by all cultures in the Andes for over 5,000 years and is considered to be very valuable. The combination of extreme altitudes (sometimes over 5,000 meters) with unbelievable temperature differences is what an alpaca has to endure every day and, thanks to its special hollow wool fibers, can endure. This not only results in an extremely soft and light thread, but also has an isolating factor at low, cold temperatures and good breathability at high temperatures.
Alpacas live mainly free and in areas that are difficult to access. They are usually only sheared once a year. If it is the first shear, it is called “baby alpaca wool”; it is considered to be particularly soft and of high-fine quality. This special material is often used for luxurious scarves and shawls.
Unlike sheep’s wool, alpaca wool does not contain lanolin, a valuable waxy substance that can, nevertheless, irritate the skin and cause allergic reactions in some people. This is why alpaca wool is considered an incredibly smooth, hypoallergenic fabric. If they are well cared for during and after the shearing process, alpacas never suffer when their wool is cut off.
The alpaca has gained a lot of international attendance during the last 20 years, not least because they are cute and lovable personalities. Here in Hirtenaue they are called “Majesty”, “Blacky” or “Gargamel”, they are all males and immediately show interest in the visitor. First they circle the “intruder”, then they come closer and closer and sometimes sniff longer at hair, hat or body. If you get too close to them or touch them at a place that is invisible to them, such as the back of the head, they often jump a little to the side in order to ensure their necessary „comfort distance“. Offerring some food always helps, of course. Alpacas are real gourmets, i.e. an alpaca only eats fresh hay from the hand or a feeder; once it is down on the floor, it is no longer touched.
As in every herd, you find the typical stereotypes like the brave, the joker, the scared one, etc. Generally they are up to 1.50 meters tall, get up to 25 years old and weigh about 75 kilograms. The stallions become sexually mature at the age of 3-4 and the gestation period for the mothers/ mare is 11 months.
After about 20 minutes the interest clearly subsides; you simply can‘t force them to do anything. If they are used for therapeutic purposes, they consequently need sufficient breaks from work.
Alpacas are particularly suitable for animal-assisted therapy because of their friendly, sensitive and curious character. Therefore, they are often used as an equivalent substitute for dolphin therapy when it comes to alleviating depression, stress, burnout phases and other psychological problems. Animal-assisted therapy is not a substitute for conventional medicine. Rather, alpacas are the calming helpers in the areas
- Support/ adveancement of awareness
- Improvement of coordination and motoric skills
- behavior disorders
- Communication and motivation
Studies have shown that the breathing rate and blood pressure can be lowered while having contact with them.
The animals have a relaxing effect and help people to switch off from daily efforts. Long walks/ mountain hikes along with them in particular support the emotional well-being. In this way, many people regain their strength for everyday life.
If you want, you can get to know the animals in advance without obligation; the range of therapeutic and free programs offered is diverse. Ms. Melanie Weigl will be happy to advise you on whether an animal-assisted therapy can be of help to master life/ improve your life situation. Or do it like me and take over a sponsorship for one of the animals which is EURO 96.- for one year. https://www.alpakafarm-hirtenaue.de/
Choosing my “adoptive child” was more difficult than expected, because they are – whether blond, brown, spotted or black – all so lovable cute and looking into their eyes seem to reflect the whole soul of their peaceful nature. You want to hug them all the time and feel their warm bodies through the fur. The hour I spent on the site respectively the two hectar enclosure was really beneficial and I couldn’t get enough of the hairy ears that are sometimes put on flat, sometimes smartly stand up and sometimes – depending on the noise perception – stand in different directions.
In the end I finally decided on the perky half-strong stallion “Black Diamond”. I am just his second sponsor, since children and the wool industry (for colouring purposes) usually prefer lighter colored animals.
Cheers for “Blacky”! May it grow and prosper, plant his genes into the earth and continue to bring relaxation and joy to many more people!
Note: no cooperation, just a personal experience/ assistance