Alpaca pioneers have a YEG connection

Alpaca pioneers have a YEG connection
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Where do alpacas come from?

Would you believe the Edmonton airport?

According to Alpaca Canada, “the first large importation” occurred on Jan. 2, 1992 and YEG was their gateway to the country.

“These animals had been quarantined in New Zealand for 1-1/2 years before arriving,” the organization’s website states.

“A 747 cargo plane then flew the 362 alpacas from Auckland, New Zealand to the international airport at Nisku, Alberta where 170 of them were dropped off at the Nisku federal quarantine facility. The rest were flown to Mirabel, Quebec, where another federal quarantine facility is located.”

The animals, renowned for their gentle nature, then spent 150 days in federal quarantine and then another year and a half on six on-farm quarantine facilities. Alpacas have since been imported from Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Australia, and the U.S., but those first arrivals appear to have been pretty prolific. Just 14 years after those pioneers reached Nisku, the national herd of registered animals had grown to more than 16,000, according to Alpaca Canada.

And the organization is full of praise for the animals, listing numerous production advantages including their hardiness, limited space and fencing requirements (one acre surrounded by a four-foot-high fence can support — and contain — five to eight alpacas), and their habit of giving birth during the day (“usually” between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.).

But it’s their gentle nature that earns special praise from the organization, which says they’re safe around children; get along with dogs, cats, and other livestock; and “make soft humming sounds to communicate.”

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