Alpacas and Llamas and Pacha Mama

Alpacas and Llamas Moyo's Journey

A Spittoon of Alpacas: Friends of Moyo
Alpacas and Llamas Moyo's Journey

Today is Alpaca Day.
On the Blue page of “Moyo’s Journey” we see a pair of inquisitive llamas – close relatives of the alpaca, but with a few differences.
Here are some fun facts about these Friends of Moyo:

Alpacas have short spear-shaped ears and blunter shaped faces while the lengthier faced llama has longer, banana shaped ears. Llamas also have less hair on their heads and faces than alpacas.
Alpacas are shorter at around 35″ high, weighing less than half of their taller cousins, who can tip the scales at as much as 400lb and stand at around 43”.
For more than 5,000 years alpacas have been bred for their coats (and in Peru for meat as well), while llamas have traditionally been bred as pack animals and for their meat.
Alpacas produce a finer and greater quantity of fleece than llamas, in a wider variety of colors. The alpaca also produces more fleece than its larger cousin and in a much greater variety of colors. Llamas also generally do not have as much hair on their head and face as alpacas do.
While Alpacas are herd animals – I like to call the collective noun a spittoon – llamas are more independent creatures and are often used as guard animals for alpacas, sheep, and other small livestock.
Oh and they all love sunbathing!

A bit of history…
I found this story from Andean mythology and thought I would share it here:
According to both the Aimara and Quechua-speaking peoples of South America, the ancient world was comprised two superimposed worlds, the upper and the lower.
The lower world was populated by enormous herds of plump, sleek alpacas belonging to the Apu, or mountain god, and were tended to by his daughter. The alpacas of the upper world, by contrast, were far fewer in number and were inferior in quality, with only a short fleece
Because the Apu’s daughter had difficulty in protecting her alpacas from the region’s numerous predators, her father arranged for her to marry a young herdsman from the upper world who could help her tend these herds. The Apu’s daughter and her husband lived contentedly in the lower world for a while until the young herdsman began to grow homesick. He told his wife that he wished to return to his own world, and to enrich it with the lower world’s herds of alpaca.
The mountain god’s daughter agreed and, collecting her alpacas, began traveling via the springs and lakes to live with her husband in the upper world. Her father’s only condition to his daughter’s marriage was that her husband was always to take good care of the herds and especially of a tiny alpaca that always had to be carried. Sadly, the daughter’s husband proved to be lazy and one day dropped the tiny alpaca on the ground, leaving it to fend for itself.
When his wife saw this she took fright and immediately ran to the nearest spring and began swimming towards the lower world. The alpacas followed her, although a few were prevented from doing so by the herdsman.
Ever since, the alpacas of the upper world have remained near springs and lakes. There, they continue to yearn after their mistress who, as yet, has never returned.
The myth of the origin of alpacas contains a basic lesson that is still understood by Andean herders today – in the beginning life was difficult, by the grace of the mountain gods, alpaca herds increased, the world became fertile and life for a time became leisurely. Mankind then disobeyed the gods’ wishes, causing the herds to decline so that now they must be tended to continually.”

Sources: https://modernfarmer.com/2015/09/difference-between-llama-and-alpaca/

Celebrating earth’s gentle giants on WORLD GIRAFFE DAY

Giraffe painted on silk by MirandaRobertsArt
“Josephine” painted on silk by MirandaRobertsArt

Well in case you missed it on my social media all week, today is WORLD GIRAFFE DAY, which pleases “Josephine” no end!

Tragically, giraffe populations have declined by 40 percent in the last 30 years and are now thought to number fewer than 98,000 in the wild. Thus they have recently been listed as “Vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation in Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. Alarmingly, some subspecies may be even more at risk of extinction than is currently recognised.*
So really, EVERY day should be WORLD GIRAFFE DAY! Today’s date was chosen by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation however, to celebrate the longest-necked animal on earth on either the longest day or night of the year, depending on which hemisphere you live!

In my picture-book-for-all-ages, “Moyo’s Journey”, we join Moyo on a short trip into the African Savanna. There she learns the importance of individuality from the zebra. She could also have learned this from the giraffe as each and every hide is unique, like a thumbprint. Moyo is the Swahili word for Heart. The Swahili word for giraffe is “Twiga”.

Moyo learns from the giraffe on her African Safari
Moyo in Africa on her rainbow Journey

Giraffe Facts you may not know:
While it seems hard to believe, giraffes have the same number of vertebrae in their necks  (7) as humans.

Giraffes have excellent eyesight enabling them to see danger from a distance. It is thought that this is the reason that other animals congregate nearby, for an early warning of approaching predators. It also helps them find their herd easily, despite the excellent camouflage provided by their hides.

While their eyesight may be excellent, they do have the highest blood pressure of any land mammal and need a very big heart to pump the blood all the way up to their head. The average giraffe heart weighs about 22lbs and can be up to 2 foot long. Because they have to bend so low to drink, giraffes have a complex pressure regulation system in their upper necks to prevent excess blood flow to the brain.

Giraffes and NASA? Blood flows differently in space and so the circulatory system of the legs doesn’t have to work as hard as it does on earth, in order to pump the blood back up. As a result, the leg veins of astronauts get thin, and weak, which can create medical complications when returning to Earth. Observing the rapidly inflating leg veins of giraffes, scientists created an airtight tube that seals below the waist and applies periodic vacuum pressure. This makes blood rush into the legs and pelvic area helping keep the astronaut’s leg veins in shape. An example of this in giraffes is seen clearly in babies who are able to stand almost immediately after they are born and are able to run alongside their herd within 10 hours of being born!

And talking of running – giraffes can reach speeds of over 30 mph. Although their ambling gait – they pick up both legs on the same side at the same time – makes it appear as if they are strolling leisurely, they can cover over 15ft with each step!

Giraffes are browsers and feed mainly from the top of acacia and commiphora (myrrh) trees. They are capable of eating up to 140lbs of leaves and twigs a day – with the aid of their very long, prehensile tongues. These can extend as far as 18” and are dark in color to prevent sun damage. They also have unique 2 or 3 lobed canine teeth which they use to strip leaves from branches. Males and females, eat from different parts of the tree to avoid competition for food.

Collective Nouns: I’m rather obsessed with collective nouns and they are sometimes a source of inspiration for paintings for me. Here are a few pertaining to giraffes:
a corps of giraffes
a herd of giraffes
a tower of giraffes
a stretch of giraffes
a totter of giraffes.

The original painting of “Josephine” has been SOLD, but prints, canvasses, clothing and home decor are availb on my Redbubble or Zazzle stores.

The Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) is the only NGO in the world that concentrates solely on the conservation and management of giraffe in the wild throughout Africa. If you are interested in supporting them and the invaluable work they do – please click here to donate – OR here to adopt a giraffe (no, you can’t take it home with you!).

Here is one last fact – and IMO the WEIRDEST: The closest relative to the Giraffe is the okapi. And that in itself is both a painting and a blog post for another day!

SOURCES:
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180103194743.htm
www.thefactsite.com
http://listverse.com/2013/10/12/12-fascinating-facts-about-giraffes/
http://www.theanimalfiles.com/mammals/hoofed_mammals/giraffe.html