Alpacas are camelids from South America and are close cousins to the Llama. They exist only as a domesticated animal and do not exist in the wild.
There are four species of South American Camelid : The small, timid and wild Vicuna
(Vicugna Vicugna) and the large and wild Guanaco (Lama Guanicoe). Both of which are protected species. The Alpaca (Lama Pacos) and the Llama (Lama Glama) are the domesticated animals and have been domesticated for at least the last 4,000 years. All four species are found in Peru, Chile and Bolivia and live at altitude on the alta piano in the Andes.
The Inca were the people instrumental in domesticating the Alpaca and further refined species to produce ever finer and denser fiber. The Alpaca was the main stay of the society, farmed for its fibre and meat. Sadly, because of this during the Spanish conquest, the invaders destroyed almost all the Alpaca with the aim of destroying the Inca economy, and replaced them with sheep. Today, there are thought to be about 3.5 million Alpaca in South America and since the late 1980’s they have been exported to start breeding programs in the United States, Australia, Britain and more recently, Europe.