The guanaco (Lama guanicoe), or wild llama, is a species of wild camalids native to South America, the wild ancestor of the llama and alpaca. It is an elegant animal in a state of nature, with a long slender neck and fine legs. Its distribution extends from Northern Peru to Patagonia. This species inhabits dry, open country either in mountains or on plains. It can run at about 35 miles per hour. Guanacos enjoy standing and even lying in mountain streams and are said to be good swimmers. When about to lie down, guanaco gets down on its front knees, collapses his hindquarters, and then drops on its chest, its legs tucked under its body. Guanacos live in herds composed of females, their young and a dominant male. It is said that if the dominant male of the group is shot, the females will not flee, but will nudge him in an effort to get him on his feet. As a source of food, clothing and other products guanacos were aggressively hunted by inhabitants of South America. This beautiful animal is killed because it is considered to be a competitor with domestic sheep and because its skin is commercially valuable.
Female guanacos give birth every other year. The 8-12 kg newborn baby guanaco is very precocious and can graze and run about just a few days after birth. The mother may suckle her offspring up to six or eight months. The baby guanaco grows very fast: the female reaches sexual maturity at two, and adult size in three or four years. Guanaco in captivity may leave up to 23 years. The guanaco is usually gentle and become a good pet, though an adult can be aggressive. It has become an endangered species and has to be managed for conservation.
More about guanacos here:
- Wildlife Utilization in Latin America. Juhani Ojasti
- Walker's Mammals of the World. Ronald M. Nowak
- Wildlife Resources: A Global Account of Economic Use. Harald H. Roth, Günter Merz