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50,000 alpacas have frozen to death in Peru

AP/Rodrigo Abd
An unforgiving winter.
Published This article is more than 2 years old.

While a heat wave is plaguing the US, Britain, and Iraq in the Northern Hemisphere, a cold snap in Peru is killing alpacas en masse.

As many as 50,000 alpacas raised by indigenous farmers in Puno, the southern part of the Andes, have died from the bitter cold winter where temperatures have plunged as low as -9 degrees Fahrenheit (-23 Celcius), the AP reports.

The Peruvian government has declared a state of emergency in the region and promised to hand out $3 million of relief funds to those affected. They fear that over 300,000 of the nation’s 4 million alpacas will die if the cold continues, and the loss of livestock will devastate 120,000 families, whose meager livelihood depend on the alpaca wool trade.

A similar plight befell the region in 2013 and last year too.

Alpaca fleece has become more popular in the fashion industry in recent years, branded as a more sustainable substitute to mainstream luxury wool like cashmere. The country now exports $150 million worth of alpaca fleece annually.  Although a piece of clothing weaved from alpaca wool is sold anywhere between $100 to $5,000, Peruvian farmers only get about $5 for each kilogram they sell, with many earning as little as $1,200 per year.

A skinned alpaca, which died due to freezing temperatures, hangs on a fence above live alpacas. Alpaca owners are butchering their dead animals to cook for their families and feed to their dogs which scare off foxes that prey on baby alpacas. (AP/Rodrigo Abd)
Maria Quispe holds her dog named Colmillo Blanco while shepherding her alpacas and sheep in her snow covered fields in San Antonio de Putina in the Puno region of Peru. (AP/Rodrigo Abd)
Every winter freeze destroys the tough grasslands the animals feed on and almost no crops can survive in the nutrient-poor soil. (AP/Rodrigo Abd)
In this July 9 photo, newborn sheep that died due to sub-freezing temperatures lay on the ground after being placed there by a villager in San Antonio de Putina in the Puno region of Peru. (AP/Rodrigo Abd)
“Every year with the winter freezes and cold temperatures the plants and animals die,” said Miguel Hadzich, head of a group affiliated with Peru’s Catholic University that on its own has built 600 homes with heating for farmers. (AP/Rodrigo Abd)
Children play after school in San Antonio de Putina. (AP/Rodrigo Abd)

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