It wasn’t that long ago that alpacas were an endangered species, at least in the United States.
In 1964, there were only 9 alpacas in the United States, and the Lincoln Park Zoo, now the Oklahoma City Zoo, was able to acquire one of those on permanent loan.
His name was Manco, and, according to a story in The Oklahoman announcing his arrival, the zoo’s director, Warren Thomas, hoped to selectively breed the alpaca with its larger cousin, the llama. His intent was to cross breed until the offspring were mostly alpaca and protect the animal from extinction in the United States.
No information exists on how successful Thomas was, but his preservation plan was no longer needed because in 1984, a 1940′s importation ban to protect against hoof and mouth disease was lifted.
Between 1984 and 1996, importations of alpacas were allowed from South America, until the Alpaca Registry closed the registration books to only American bred animals.
Margie Ray of Ray Farms, considered the founder of alpaca breeding in Oklahoma, acquired 3 imported alpacas in 1986.
There are now more than 170,000 alpacas in the United States, and, in 2009, there were more than 80 farms in Oklahoma.
Alpacas are raised for their hair or fiber. They come in 22 colors and two types: suri, which has long silky hair, and huacaya, which has soft fluffy hair.
Once a year, usually in spring after the show season, the animals are sheared to make them more comfortable during the summer heat and the fiber is processed for various uses, such as roving for spinners, thread for weavers, and yarn for those who knit and crochet, rugs, jewelry and more.
The Alpacas of Oklahoma, A-OK, are having their annual show Easter weekend, April 7 and 8, at Shawnee’s Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center, 30 miles east of Oklahoma City and easily accessible from Interstate 40.
The alpacas are shown at halter, obstacle, public relation, junior exhibitor and showmanship. Costume classes also are presented.
The show is free to the public and offers an opportunity to meet alpacas and their owners and to buy alpaca fiber, yarn, jewelry and other alpaca related items. You might even buy an alpaca or two.
This is a reprint of an article by Edith C. Johnson, an editorial writer for The Oklahoman, that was first published 95 years ago on Easter Sunday, April 4, 1915:
“Today is Easter — the most significant and appealing festival in the calendar of the year — with the single exception of Christmas.
Easter is our most perfect symbol of hope renewed and our promise of life eternal. Rightly interpreted, it becomes the sign-manual of creative energy bursting the bonds of a thousand limitations. It is the token of new courage with which to face life’s struggle–strong in the belief of an ultimate supremacy. To contemplate the eternal verities for which it stands is to widen our horizon and broaden our purposes and hopes.
Science teaches us that one spring is like another–but science is forgotten in the message of inspiration the recurring springtime brings to a world that is weary with toil and endless disappointments, that is wasting its blood in futile warfare, that is struggling with iron oppressions and that is crushed to earth under the heel of selfishness and cold indifference.
Easter beckons on the human race. Symbolizing the renewal of man’s shining ideals, it revives human faith after the winter of our discontent, and spurs us on to the accomplishment of unbelievable tasks, through a courage that finds its source in the life-giving stream of our spiritual nature.
There is a sublime general in Easter, celebrated by the return of spring with its melting snows and streams, its budding leaves, and its bursting blossoms that once more turn their petals to the sun. Man may fall, but nature always stands proudly erect– for the seed drops to earth, only to blossom forth in greater glory. Man may transgress or evade the law. Inviolable nature keeps it. Man may sullenly turn away from light and truth. All nature turns her face towards the sun.
Thus do we read in the buds and blossoms and leaves of grass the victories of life. The beauties of nature heal and restore us. The incommunicable trees, flowers, the earth and the waters, all growing things and the heavens, bid us live with them and enter into the fullness of life. They proclaim that love shall overcome hate; that justice shall rise above injustice; that right will triumph over might and that dominion and power shall ultimately belong to the righteous and pure in heart.–E.C.J.”
May you find beauty in the Oklahoma spring landscape on this early Easter morning.