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Inca and Aztec Animal Trek


Caught You Looking!!

March/April 2000 sees Glasgow Zoopark hosting a live interactive exhibition of the Animals of the Aztecs:

The continent of South America lies in the Southern Hemisphere to the south of North and Central America. It is roughly twice the size of Europe, with a spine of mountains, the Andes, running from North to South along its western edge. To the east of the Andes are great plains - the Pampas - and tropical rain forests stretching across to the shores of the South Atlantic. This enormous area through the millennia has been home to hosts of native people, of which the most famous are the Incas, Aztecs and Mayas.

The Incas lived on the west coast of South America, from modern Chile to Peru, and numbered about twelve million. Their technology was highly developed and they were great road builders, although they had no writing.

The Aztecs, on the other hand, lived in what is now Mexico, in the bottom tip of North America, and numbered about two million. Their great empire was based on an advanced agriculture - with irrigation, land reclamation and intensive cultivation. Perhaps their most famous emperor is Montezuma II.

These people domesticated a number of the native animals of which llamas and cavies are the most famous. These combined with maize (corn on the cob) and potatoes provided the mainstay of their agriculture. Llamas were used for meat, wool and as beasts of burden. Cavies were kept in social groups, often in large terracotta urns in the huts, and used not as pets but for food. Both have been domesticated for thousands of years, for so long in fact, that their ancestry is no longer certain.

The llama, for example, could be descended from an ancestor now extinct or could be a domesticated - and colourful - form of the wild guanaco. Llama, guanaco, alpaca, and vicuna are the four camelid (camel-like) forms found in the New World which are closely related to the true camels of the Old World - the Bactrian (two-humped) and the Arabian (one-humped). None of the South American camelids is humped, though all will interbreed with each other, producing fertile hybrids.

Cavies are probably descended from the cuis, a wild type of guinea pig, though this is far from certain. Although a rodent, and filling a similar ecological niche to a rabbit in the Old World, cavies are very friendly, and vocal, quickly learning the footsteps of the person looking after them and squeaking in chorus on his or her approach. Although thoroughly domest-icated they are nervous, jumpy little creatures despite their long domestication. They occur in a wide range of colours, and hair types.

Animals you can encounter include:
  • Boa Constrictor
  • Chilean Rose Spider
  • Chinchillas
  • Collard Peccaries
  • Ducks

    All domestic ducks - except for the red-faced Muscovy duck from the rainforests of South America - are descended from the wild mallard duck found round the globe. With captive breeding over 2-3,000 years many strange and beautiful varieties have been developed. These are just breeds - variations on the basic type. All will happily cross-breed, creating something midway between the two parents and are fertile.

    Domesticated ducks were an important part of the human food production chain for the Inca, Aztec and Maya peoples. The varieties of the time have not survived through they would probably be little different from those seen here, which are all some variation of the mallard.

    During the life of our Inca and Aztec Animal Trek, our ducks will be rotated to minimise stress, maximise interest, and to let all ducks have regular access to ponds and the rain. Dark greenish ducks, usually with some white are commonplace in domestic duck flocks everywhere.

  • Giant Rheas
  • Guinea Pig
  • Llamas
  • Mexican Burrowing Python