World Alpaca Conference held at Keble

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Alpacas and their enthusiasts descended upon Keble College last week for the World Alpaca Conference.

Over 180 delegates from 18 different countries attended the conference which celebrates the versatility of the alpaca, an animal closely related to the llama, and the multiple uses of its famously soft fleece. It was the first time the event had ever been held in the UK.

Alpaca owners came in their herds to the conference, which included events such as talks on Alpaca health, fleece testing and workshops about breeding alpacas and processing their fleece.

The alpacas, meanwhile, grazed on the grass outside, much to the amusement of Keble’s students, who are prevented from walking on the lawns in Michaelmas and Hilary. Domestic Bursar, Janet Betts, conceded that “it would have been difficult to fine the animals anyway”.

Later, the delegates moved inside for a fashion show in which alpaca fleece garments, including ponchos, scarves and dresses were modelled. The fleeces of the alpacas brought to the conference were also judged. “Pinkney Angelica” was labelled the winner, having already secured first place for her “Champion Fleece” in last year’s Heart of England Fleece Show.

The conference, organised by the British Alpaca Society, aims to promote the use of alpaca fleece in Britain. All profits are set to go to Amanti, a charity for Peruvian children, which thanked the BAS “for their generous support”.

One delegate commented that she’d like alpaca “to become part of everyone’s vocabulary”. Another delegate, Chris Goffrey, said that the conference was really “a big deal” as it was bound to put “the UK alpaca community on the map.”

Kishan Koran, a first year PPEist, commented that there was “something beautiful and majestic about the idea of alpacas in Oxford”. However another student questioned whether “having an Alpaca conference in 2012 is a smart idea,” as it is a year widely regarded to be “the year of the Mayan Alpaca-lypse.”

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