Okaramio Community Church

Okaramio, New Zealand | C.1919

Photo Credit: Michael Brown

Though this small church only welcomes congregants every four weeks, there is always activity on its premises. While it’s normal for any public community building to have a guard or two, this space has a full security force—of alpacas. 

Residents in Okaramio may now be quite used to alpacas roaming through their fields, but they are relatively recent immigrants to the area. Native to South America, alpacas have long been associated with the Ancient Incan civilization, where they were used in many facets of daily life, including traversing the difficult terrain of the Andes mountains. Prior to the Spanish conquest of the area, there were thought to have been tens of millions of alpacas along the South American continent, though over time, that number dwindled, and populations are now a little less than three million. 

Along with a high intelligence and kind nature, the fur of alpacas is used to this day for warm apparel and clothing made from their camelid fiber. In the mid-1980s, the governments of  Chile and New Zealand made an agreement for the former to send a few packs of alpaca in an effort to begin fiber farming operations and growing alpaca populations on the green pastures of Kiwi country. Found to really enjoy the climate and surroundings of New Zealand (who wouldn’t), herds of alpaca are now a common site in many parts of the country. 

Besides keeping a watchful eye on this small spiritual structure, Okaramio’s alpacas have also proven to be excellent lawnmowers, maintaining a tranquil landscape for churchgoers. If one dares trespass on church premises, however, do be warned—mowing services will immediately stop, and investigative alpacas will make sure the person of interest is welcomed by the full pack.

Written By: Seamus McMahon

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