ARCHIVE: Veterinary surveillance: Camelids
Llamas, alpacas, guanacos and vicunas are collectively known as New World Camelids. Originally they all came from Central America. They are all members of the camelid family and are related to Bactrian (two-humped) and Dromedary(one-humped) camels.
Camelids in the UK
There are very few guanaco and vicunas in the UK and these are largely confined to zoos. However there are increasing numbers of alpaca and llama being kept as pets and for business purposes. They can be kept for a variety of reasons.
Llamas are popular as field pets. They will live alongside other stock and make good companions, for example, for lone ponies. They quickly learn to wear a halter and to be led. Llamas can be taught to pull a cart. Llamas can be walked for pleasure and will happily carry a pack. A number of enterprises around the UK offer llama treks.
Llamas and alpacas have a double fleece; an outer guard hair and a fine, soft undercoat much sought after by hand spinners. Llamas do not have to be sheared at all, but the undercoat can be used to make garments and the guard hair can be used for other products such as bags and rugs.
Male llamas are protective of their group and are used very successfully to keep predators from attacking lambs and even ducks and poultry.
Looking for disease in camelids
Many people are involved in looking for disease in camelids. As part of the scanning surveillance program farmed, pet and zoo camelids are submitted to the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Scottish Agricultural College or Veterinary Services Division (Northern Ireland).
Important diseases in camelids
We are learning more about the diseases that camelids can suffer from through our surveillance programs. The Veterinary Laboratories Agency has identified Johnes disease and Bovine Viral Diarrhoea in llamas and alpacas and is undertaking research to understand these diseases better in these species.
What other diseases do we look out for?
We also keep a look out for camelid diseases which do not usually occur in this country. The most important of these exotic diseases is foot and mouth disease. News from other countries about these diseases helps us plan how to keep them out.
Page last reviewed: 13 December 2007
Page last modified: December 15, 2006