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.”
In “Moyo’s Journey”, on the Indigo page, she explores the deep oceans along with many creatures we know. Not included in the original illustration from the book is the world’s largest fish and one of the biggest creatures on earth – the gentle whale shark. I guess I’m holding out for a standalone “Oceans Journey” follow-up with Moyo, sometime in the future.
The only predator these magnificent animals have is us humans. Yup. Again. They are considered to be some of the most vulnerable marine animals and some of the most endangered sharks. I always believe that to love something you need to know more about it, so here on World Whale Shark Day are some facts I’ve gleaned from around the web, in order for us to learn a little more about them together. (Credits below.)
Scientific Name: Rhincodon typus Average Length: 18 – 40 foot and the females are larger than the males Average Weight: 20.6 tons. That is equal to the combined weight of three average African elephants (not that there is ANYTHING average about an African Elephant!) Average Width of Mouth: 5 foot and this consists of 300 rows of tiny teeth, each only 6mm long! With this huge mouth they can suck up to 600 cubic meters of water every hour. As they feed mostly from scooped up plankton, they have no need for larger teeth. Swimming Speed is around 3 mph and they can dive up to around 3000 feet. Sadly, they prefer to live at around 150 feet which makes them susceptible to unsustainable fishing practices and damage from larger vessels. Communication: Whale Sharks do not use sound for communication but instead respond to the vibrations created by sound.
Their migration habits are still a source of relatively new study and therefore not fully understood. We do know however that they gather in large groups in specific places and at specific times. Regular followers of “Moyo’s Journey” on social media will know that I am a HUGE fan of collective nouns – official and otherwise. I came across and interesting article on this with specific regard to whale sharks: A constellation of whale sharks.
And that leads smoothly to their skin – hard and scaly, it can be up to 4” thick. Interestingly, like many animals, their pattern is utterly unique to each animal and an obvious reason for the choice of informal collective noun.
As with so many of Friends of Moyo, we need to honor these gentle beasts more.
Mermaids – raise your glasses for Whale Shark Day.
Click on the logo above for Whale Shark inspired merch at my new Society6 store
Thank you to Chrissy Brackett from Woodinville, WA for this inspirational story time with Moyo.. Copies available here, from MirandaRobertsArt, Etsy and Amazon.com. Where will YOU take Moyo?
“Once a month I run a Children’s StoryTime at the bookstore where I work. At the last event, I chose to share “Moyo’s Journey”. It was amazing to see children as young as 3 entranced by the vibrant artwork, the 8 & up kids enjoying the different places that Moyo travels to and the adults listening closely to the message being delivered through the words. The kids then did a hands-on project of painting with watercolors a place that they thought Moyo should visit – most were imaginary places of wonder – and they placed their own “Moyo” polar bear in their special place. It was a wonderful story time that everyone enjoyed for a variety of reasons.
Afterwards, my two helpers (a 9 and 11 year old), who have attended StoryTime for several years, were looking through the back pages and reading through the facts (with their mom). I surprised them by gifting this very special book to them. They were so excited to take the book home and share it with their dad, who is from New Zealand! A family treasure is what I’ve been told by their mom.
Thank you, Miranda Roberts, for writing and illustrating a children’s book that entertains all ages! I highly recommend “Moyo’s Journey” for families, librarians and teachers!!!”
Thank you for scrolling through my website to get this far! I am so excited about the imminent launch of “Moyo’s Journey” and I look forward to sharing her travels with you all.
My own journey to Moyo is because of the love, inspiration and opportunity that so many of you provide. To my hiking and walking friends for patiently listening to page by page accounts of my progress; to everyone who gave valuable and insightful editorial feedback as the journey progressed – particularly the ever diplomatic and extremely talented Lu; to my family for living it day by day; and particularly to Owen for giving me the world – I thank and value you all.
I came to Moyo because of my passionate belief in the importance of travel, of seizing opportunities and of being true to yourself. I also know that nothing, absolutely nothing, is more important than kindness. Future blogs will circle “Moyo’s Journey” and encompass all that we discover and experience with her and the creatures she encounters.
I welcome your own voices on all of these – send me your guest posts, your photos of travel and learning from others, your tales of kindness, of adventure, of opportunity. And your photos of the wild and majestic creatures with whom we share this planet.