The more I observe the guanacos at the San Diego Zoo, the more fascinated I am with them. Such beautiful animals, they were described by Charles Darwin as “an elegant animal, with a long, slender neck and fine legs.” I’m especially taken by their sweet expressions, those big eyes with long lashes, and their soft, velvety looking faces. Guanacos are part of the camel family, related to domesticated llamas and alpacas, and are likely their wild ancestors. They are native to the mountain regions of South America. Their blood is rich in red blood cells, giving them the ability to survive at the low oxygen levels found at high altitudes. One teaspoon of guanaco blood has about 68 billion red blood cells, four times that of a human. The guanaco is surprisingly graceful in it’s movement, and is capable of running up to 35 miles per hour, often over steep and rocky terrain. Though they’re usually quiet when I visit, I heard them vocalize one day when a service dog walked by. It was quite an interesting sound, a high-pitched bleating noise, which is how they alert each other when threatened. It’s fun getting to know the guanacos!
Keywords:Guanaco, San Diego Zoo