Alpacas were domesticated thousands of years ago. The Moche people (100 to 700 AD) of Northern Peru often used alpaca images in their art and that tells you how long people have had alpacas as companions.
These adorable animals are a species of South American mammal. They are similar to, and often confused with, the llama. However, alpacas are often noticeably smaller than llamas. The two animals are closely related and can successfully crossbreed. There are two breeds of alpaca: the Suri alpaca and the most commonly found Huacaya alpaca which constitute about 90% of the population.
Alpacas are social herd animals that live in family groups, consisting of a territorial alpha male, females, and their young ones. Alpacas can sometimes be aggressive, but they can also be very gentle, intelligent, and extremely observant. In fact, some of the alpacas we work with here at The Animal Talent are trained therapy animals and can be hired for those purposes; they are experienced in visiting schools and care homes and so are quite used to dealing with large groups of people (as can be experienced on a film set).
For the most part, alpacas are very quiet, but male alpacas are more energetic when they get involved in fighting with other alpacas. As prey animals, they are cautious but also nervous when they feel any type of threat. They can feel threatened when a person or another alpaca comes up from behind them, so care must be taken in the studio.
Body language is the key to their communication. It helps to maintain their order. One example of their body communication includes a pose named “broadside”, where their ears are pulled back and they stand sideways.
Alpacas are very trainable, biddable animals and will usually respond to reward, most commonly in the form of food. This really aligns with our ethics at The Animal Talent and it’s how we handle our animals; treat and reward. They are able to be petted without getting agitated though they prefer not being patted around the head or neck.
Nuzzle and Scratch was a children’s television programme here in the UK, featuring two fictional alpacas that was first broadcast between 2008 and 2011. More interest in alpacas grew very recently as a result of Depp v. Heard, the 2022 trial in which Johnny Depp sued Amber Heard for defamation in Virginia after Heard wrote an op-ed saying she was a public victim of domestic violence. Depp testified, under oath, that he would not make another Pirates of the Caribbean film for “300 million dollars and a million alpacas”.
They are a large animal; an adult alpaca generally is between 81-99cm in height at the shoulders (withers) and they usually weigh between 48-90kg. Raised in the same conditions, the difference in weight can be small with males weighing around 22.3kg and females 21.3 kg, which is actually quite impressive! Their size must be considered for studio work; not least the transportation and parking requirements.
We work with some excellent alpacas here at The Animal Talent and we are proud of the work we do with them. They’re an adorable animal that looks cute and has a fun personality. They’re an absolute hit on social media and any content driven media projects will do well to include this lovely animal in the campaign. Likewise, in film and TV this beautiful beast is a showstopper.
We supply professional animal location handlers around the world to ensure you get all the shots you require and, as overseers to ensure the wild is not disturbed, the crew will always be safe and no welfare regulations are ever breached.
It isn’t just the animals that are well trained, our team including our handlers are also highly experienced and fully qualified experts in the field.
Your handler will take full control of any animals on set and ensure the entire shoot runs properly. They will also fully manage the welfare of all the animals both on and off set; the safety and welfare of the animals is their prime concern. All of our handling is strictly force-free and only positive, reward based practices are deployed. This way you can have total confidence that by booking With The Animal Talent everything is taken care of legally, professionally and ethically.
The Performing Animals Licence is no longer relevant (it was scrapped in 2019) and has been replaced with the Animal Activity Licence, which we hold.
Our alpacas are covered by a £5 million Public Liability Insurance policy.
As alpacas are considered to be in the livestock category, there is strict legislation with regards to the movement of such animals and licensing may be required for transport, keeping and handling these animals. Speak with one of our agents to discuss your requirements and we can handle this process on your behalf.
For further advice, please check out British Alpaca Society with regards to welfare, information and statistics.
If any species of animal listed under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act are required, special measures will need to be put into place for the shoot. Precisely what is appropriate will vary species to species, but may include sectioned off areas where only trained handlers are allowed. In the event of large and dangerous carnivores, a specifically built green screen studio can also be supplied.