Llamas are the lifeblood for many people in Bolivia. In the Altiplano, most families own several llamas which are raised in communal herds. Llamas are used for meat and wool. In addition, these sturdy animals have served as pack animals for centuries in the Andes and continue to fill that roll today. A llama is able to carry 30% of its body weight, though they are temperamental workers. When overloaded, a llama will lie down and refuse to move until the extra weight has been removed.
In addition to their utilitarian value, llamas hold a special place in Andean society because they are held as sacred to the Incan gods. Each year, llamas are sacrificed to Mama Picchu (mother earth) to give thanks and bring about good fortune. The current president of Bolivia participates in a traditional ceremony where two llamas are sacrificed at the beginning of each new year.
Many llamas are raised to represent specific virtues (innocence, etc.) with each virtue being represented by a different colored ear tag. You can see the colored ear tags in the image above.