Unseasonable weather killing alpacas

Peru This Week
By: Agnes Rivera
Photo: Courtesy of Peru21/USI

Did you know that Peru is home to 80% of the world’s alpaca population?

Concentrated in the regions near the southern Andes of Peru, these furry animals have been suffering from unusual weather patterns, be it extreme rain, drought, as well as drops in temperature.

Ayacucho, capital of the Huamanga province in south central Peru, has been experiencing unseasonably low temperatures, taking effect upon the lives of locals as well as local wildlife and livestock. Silvio Sechun, a local cattle farmer, told the Weather Network, that “180,000 alpacas have died in the region, without counting those who lost offspring.”

While native grazers such as alpaca and llama are used to cooler temperatures, past seasons have not been as extreme.

This past weekend, 18 regions of Peru, mainly in the southern highlands, were on alert for intense rain. These included Ayacucho, Cusco, Puno, Moquegua and Tacna were some of those areas named by Senamhi (the National Service of Meteorology and Hydrology). Senamhi warned that due to low temperatures in many of the areas, the rain would likely turn into snow or hail.

Recently, heavy rainfall in Huanuco, a city in central Peru, led to flooded homes and thus destroyed crops and grasslands, the main source of food for grazers. Senamhi estimated that rainfall had reached 202.8 cubic millimeters per square centimeter (1.5 million gallons).

Issues of unseasonable weather were in the spotlight when Peru’s 2016 winter saw extreme drops in temperature. William Morales Cáceres, head of Puno’s agricultural ministry, told Vice magazine that temperatures have “regularly dropped to 9 degrees Fahrenheit or minus 23 degrees Celsius” over the past months, having some impact (sickness or death) on over 270,000 alpacas.

According to the same report, Julio Gil Pacheco, the interior minister of Tacna, “the extreme cold has ‘burned’ 53 percent of the grasslands in the region.” Tacna is 250 miles south of Puno.

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