A Day in the Life of a Llama: Survival, Balance and Community

A Day in the Life of a Llama: Survival, Balance and Community

"Hiwasaha uywa uywataña uka uywaha hiwasaru yusitu." We raise them and they raise us, in the Aymara language.

Their curly wool, pointed ears, long eyelashes and the curious shape of their bodies, together with their past as a symbol of royalty in Inca times, make the llama one of the most curious animals in the world. Discover here as we give you as glimpse into a day in the life of a llama, why they are a symbol of survival, balance and community.

Sunrise in La Puna, northern Argentina, at more than 3800 metres above sea level. Its average altitude makes it the second highest plateau on earth after Tibet. It is said that there, during one day, you can experience the four seasons of the year: from a freezing winter at night, to a burning summer during the day, with the other seasons in between.
Due to the extreme temperature conditions and low oxygen concentration, livestock and agricultural activity is seriously reduced. This is where the llama plays a central role in the lives of the region's people. A strong and docile animal that does not degrade the environment unlike sheep and also develops its full potential in such extreme conditions: they provide meat, milk, fibre, transport, guano (excrement used as fuel and fertiliser), leather and bones used to create accessories for work and domestic use. 
Llama breeding plays a fundamental role in the culture, spirituality and socio-economic reproduction of high Andean families. To start a day in the life of a llama, early in the morning, the llamas go for a quiet walk guided by their shepherds, who takes them to where there is water and good pasture. There they will remain grazing until the afternoon when the shepherds takes them back to their corral.
It is the women who take care of the animals on a daily basis, often with the help of children. Only for work that requires a lot of physical effort, such as shearing, they rely on male labour.

Shearing time

In the Argentine highlands, shearing can be done at two times of the year: between the end of March and the beginning of April and October/November, when temperatures are moderate for this environment, so that the animal does not suffer from the cold. Each llama can be sheared every two years, it is a manual process, which does not harm the animal and lasts between 10 and 15 minutes.
Through the breeding of llamas, and the subsequent economic utilisation of the fibre, the inhabitants of the puna can improve their quality of life, especially considering the levels of poverty in these communities.
Once the fibre is extracted, they themselves will transform it into the thread with which - using ancestral techniques - they will weave unique pieces with this history, like the ones you will find here at The Andes Project.
A day in the life of a llama may be simple but it's entire being provides so much value to the communities that cherish them.
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