The llama is a domesticated camelid from South America, specifically a wide swath of the western portion of the country, along the Andes Mountains. Their name comes from European spellings of their native Peruvian name. Llamas are herd animals and their wool is often harvested for use in clothing.
While initial attempts to classify these herbivores placed them in the same grouping as sheep, zoologists eventually realized that despite being able to produce wool, llamas had far more in common with the desert-dwelling camel than any sheep. Llamas can crossbreed with camels, resulting in an animal known as the “cama.”
What Is the Average Lifespan of A Llama?
The average llama will live around 20 years, with a common variance ranging between 15 and 25 years of life. It should be noted that this 20 year average is taken from llamas that have been allowed to run freely out in the wild and that llamas raised and kept in captivity live even longer.
Lifespan in Captivity
As previously mentioned llamas do well in captivity and mankind has domesticated them since the eras before the Inca Empire came to be, roughly 100-700 CE. Llamas living in and among human company routinely make it into their early- to mid-20s.
A dam will carry its cria for nearly an entire year, 350 days to be precise. When she gives birth to the baby llama, a process that takes less than 30 minutes, the dam will not lick the gooey material off of the newborn as other animals do. Instead of licking, mothers will nuzzle and hum to the new llama.
Crias are able to walk about and eager to drink mother’s milk within an hour into the world. Crias can weigh anywhere from 20 to 31 pounds.
After six months of age, young llamas are called tuis. Llamas reach maturity at different ages, based on sex. While females enter puberty in roughly a month, males do not become sexually capable until they reach three years of age. An adult lama reaches anywhere from 5’7″ to 5’11” in height and 290 to 440 pounds in weight.
Probable Causes of Death
While the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List lists this species as stable, that does not mean that llamas only pass away due to old age. Do not forget that these are prey animals.
As a prey species, llamas are predated upon by coyotes, feral dogs, ocelots and pumas. The one major defensive advantage that llamas have over such predators is that llamas are communal animals that live in herds, giving them strength in numbers. As far as non-humans involvement goes, the puma had the greatest influence on the llama’s territorial lands and population, leaving these fluffy quadrupeds to live solely within the wilds of South America.
Humans domesticated the llama for easy access to wool. While their meat was appreciated during times of extreme stress, their main use by humans has mostly been in the form of a pack animal. Prior to the rise of the Inca, the llama were beneficial to agriculture for their dung.
During the Inca Empire, the llama was regarded as a best or burden and an important symbol; so important was the llama to the Inca that the herder god Urcuchillay is regarded as a prismatic llama.
When the Spanish came to South America, they also adopted the llama for carrying heavy loads. Fast forward to the late 20th Century, where the practice of fielding a single gelded lama as a guard dog against livestock predation arose in the western portions of the United States.
While there have been incidents of human poachers taking the life of a llama, the black market has focused on their relatives, the vicuñas. Nowadays, if a llama is poached, it is usually the result of mistaking a llama for another similar animal, such as a vicuña or deer.
Llamas are quite susceptible to several neurological disorders, including the following:
- Listeriosis, a bacterial infection.
- Polioencephalomalacia, where the brain yellows and develops lesions.
- Encephalitis as a result of West Nile virus, where the brain swells.
- Equine herpesvirus, which can cause several problems.
- Meningeal worm.
What Was the Oldest Known Llama?
The oldest recorded llama without a given name was lived to be 28.9 years old, its considerably lifespan is doubtlessly the result of being held in captivity. The oldest known llama with a name, known affectionately as Rapper, lived 26 years and 258 days old in captivity. His full name was Ramadan’s Arapahoe Gold and he lived in Olympia, Washington.