Wild Encounters: Dapper Dan the Alpaca

Wild Encounters

AUGUSTA, GA (WJBF) – Today on Wild Encounters we get to meet a pretty fancy animal at the Riverbanks Zoo.

Alright, we’re back here at Riverbanks Zoo with Kaitlyn; and Kaitlyn, tell us about our new alpaca friend we have here in front of us.

Kaitlyn Pleau / Farm keeper: “Well, I’d love to introduce Dapper Dan. He is one of our alpacas we have here at the zoo. He is most recognizable for the fluffy tuft of hair that you can see on top of his head. So, you’ll definitely be able to tell him apart from our other two resident alpacas; but alpacas are very special animals. They’ve been domesticated or part of human development in helping them out for centuries. They actually originated in South America, but they can help us in lots of different ways. They are great pack animals, so you can have them load up and actually have them carry different materials, especially up steep hills; but they also have this beautiful fleece. So, they are able to be sheered every year to help provide different clothing, scarves, and lots of things that are super soft.”

A lot of people get confused between alpacas and llamas. What’s the difference?

Kaitlyn: “That’s a great question. They are actually cousins. They are part of the camel family, but the difference between alpacas and llamas is two different things. I am six feet tall, so you can see Dapper Dan is a little bit shorter than me, where llamas will actually be as tall as me. So, he only stands about four-and-a-half to five feet tall; but you’ll also want to take a look at their ears. You can see he has shorter, stubbier ears, whereas llamas have banana-shaped ears.”

Some think that alpacas are known for spitting. Is that true? Should I be worried?

Kaitlyn: “As I am standing here, I can promise you that I am not worried. So, you should not be worried. They are most definitely able to do that. It is a pretty cool thing, because it’s not just saliva, it’s actually gastric juices; so, it’s quite smelly. It’s a way of communication. It’s one of their ways that they stay nice and protected. As you can see, he doesn’t have a lot of defense mechanisms. So, animals are not going to like that if they approach them and it starts to spit in their eyes. You don’t have to worry, because usually it’s when they’re provoked. So, if you’re really irritating them – invading their space – that’s when they’re going to do that.”

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