Going on a field trip? Alpaca my lunch!

This past week I went on my daughter’s 6th grade trip to the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, South Carolina. We got up early the third to last day of school before Summer break, packed our bagged lunches and left the middle school on a Rose bus.

On our trek through the zoo we saw all of the things we’d hoped to: the elephants, zebras, seals, penguins and flamingos. Even though the tigers were hiding and the kangaroos were asleep, the monkeys put on a fantastic show, the giraffes came up to nibble greens out of our hands; and we got so close to a koala it felt like we could almost reach out and touch him.

You would think that all of these amazing exotic animals would be the most exciting exhibits to these tween girls, but (aside from the gift shop) the most captivating part of the trip was feeding and petting the alpacas. These cousins to llamas were super-cute and friendly…I’m sure because we were giving them treats!

Clearly my family is partial to llamas, so it is not surprising my daughter was drawn to the alpacas, although there are some noticeable differences in these two animals. Llamas have bigger banana-like ears, while Alpacas’ are smaller and spear-shaped. Alpacas are more skittish and llamas tend to be very calm and gentle. Alpacas are smaller than llamas and are used mainly for their shaggier hair. Llamas, because of their size, are used as a pack animal. The alpacas we saw had just been groomed, but they typically have more fleece around their face than a llama.

I honestly can’t blame the girls for favoring these sweet farm animals, as they were able to interact with them more than any other animal. Although, I think I may have a completely different and unexpected new favorite zoo animal. Could it be a new character for a story? It’s quite possible - stay tuned!

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