1864! Most people are unaware of this! A herd of 336 alpacas were shipped to Australia by Sir Charles Ledger. Many died on route, only 276 alpacas survived the sea journey, with some of the survivors ending up in Lyttleton, New Zealand. It is not known what happened to these alpacas in either Australia or New Zealand, as there are no descendents of either group.
120 years later, in 1985, Ian Nelson convinced the then Minister of Agriculture in NZ to change the status of alpacas and llamas from zoo animals to farm animals (see our earlier article on Ian Nelson).
1986: 2 alpacas and 3 llamas were air freighted from London Zoo by Ian Nelson, the start of the dream! 1 of these alpacas lived until she was 28 or 29, and following her death about 5 years ago, Ian finally retired from farming!
1987: A Wellington Syndicate had grand ideas to import 500 alpacas to NZ from Chile. However, the 1987 stock market crash destroyed this plan before it could be completed.
1988: Clyde and Roger Haldane imported 300 alpacas to NZ. These alpacas were destined for the US market, but remained in New Zealand until import protocols were organised with the US. This herd increased in size to several thousand before being finally shipped to the US. Thereafter the US imported alpacas direct from South America.
1989: Murray Bruce imports 273 alpacas from Chile after 4 1/2 years of negotiation. Despite receiving an import permit in 1986, protocols were not finalised until 1987, and an outbreak of foot and mouth in Chile delayed the export until Chile was declared disease free in 1988.
The rest as they say, is history!