Zoo Buddy: Llamas don’t spit as much as you think

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 4:21 PM CDT
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - We’re back at the Louisiana Purchase Gardens & Zoo to meet Mickey the llama. He’s in the petting zoo area.

Llamas are from South America, they live in the Andes Mountains along the mountains ranges and like in shrubs, grassy areas, stuff like that,” explains zookeeper Jaylee Walk. “They are herbivores, so they like to eat grass and graze. They also really like hay.”

She says their wool is very soft, and people will use it to make articles of clothing.

“These guys are pretty special animals because of their physiology,” says Walk. “They live in the high mountains, and […] it’s a high elevation and less oxygen in the air, […] so these guys have a lot of hemoglobin in their blood, which actually carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of their body so that they can function properly in that high altitude.”

Walk says they’re pack animals and can walk for long periods of time.

“People will use them to carry heavy loads in South America primarily, they will use them to carry heavy loads for 20 miles at a time. So they are used to carrying big, heavy backpacks and stuff all over. So they’re really tough. […] And a fun fact, they communicate by humming. So I know that sounds kind of odd. And I can’t really explain why, but they do communicate by humming with each other.”

She says llamas will spit as a defense mechanism, but it’s not their main way to combat something.

“But their primary defense mechanism is actually going to be the kick,” says Walk. “So if he’s irritated with me, he will actually give you a warning, which will be a stomp. And then he would probably do two warnings, two stomps and maybe a noise with the second one, and then he will actually kick. They do spit but they’re actually more likely to spit out another llama.” The petting zoo is close to the Louisiana Kitchen Garden and train ride.

“He probably takes the most selfies out of any of the animals in there […] and he loves banana peppers. That’s probably his favorite food here at the zoo,” says Lisa Taylor, General Curator at the zoo.

The zoo is open every day of the week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and you can call them at (318) 329-2400 for more information. The boat ride, train ride, and reptile building are all back open!

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