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Sure, llamas and alpacas are fun to look at. Those big eyes, buck teeth, lanky necks make for quite a sight. I've always had a thing for their goofy faces, thick coats of fur and quirky personalities.


Not only are they fun to look at, they are very important to the people living in the Andes Mountains of South America. Like their distant cousin the camel, they are pack animals and can travel far with little water. They eat many different types of vegetation and are durable and dependable even in the sparse mountainous terrain of the rural highlands.

In addition to doing hard labor as beasts of burden, llamas and alpacas make a huge impact on many aspects of life in the Andes. Their wool is used to make coats, scarves and clothes to keep families warm. The wool is grease-free, warm and luxurious, so it is very marketable, and families can earn a steady income by selling it to others.

Llamas have a relatively low protein requirement and an efficient digestive system (similar to a cow), they are easier to feed than other animals that size. Their calm nature also makes them easier to handle. They are sure-footed and make good pack animals. You may be surprised to learn that their two-toed foot and soft pad gives them a low environmental impact, especially for their size. How about that? Environmentally friendly feet. A perfect animal for Heifer coincides with our mission to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.

Llama and Woman

Because of harsh conditions in the rural highlands, many people are living here in poverty. Heifer International has targeted this population and their livelihoods by helping increase the genetic diversity of their alpacas and llamas, improving fodder crops and distributing new livestock. Along with the gifts of llamas, participants receive trainings to better care for their animals themselves and to improve all aspects of their lives.

Give the gift of a llama now.

You'll be providing a struggling family with a lifetime of opportunities.

This post is part of our What to Give series, where we’re helping you choose the best Heifer gift for your loved ones. Read previous What to Give posts here, and subscribe to the What to Give series here.

Still don’t know what to give? Check out our entire online Gift Catalog.


Linda Meyers

Linda Meyers, an Arkansas transplant originally from St. Louis, Mo., started working at Heifer International in 2011. She enjoys dragging her three children on nature hikes and snapping photos of them and everything around her. She has a bachelor’s degree in English has been “in the process” of writing the great American novel for 24 years.