Photos: Children race llamas in Ecuador’s highlands to save wetland park

On a recent morning, high up in Ecuador's highlands, about 20 children got ready to show off their skills in a llama race known as "Llamingada", that takes place every year in Llanganates National Park, one of the most important wetlands on the planet that covers nearly 2,200 square km. The goal of the event was to raise awareness among indigenous communities about the importance of the park's care.

UPDATED ON FEB 11, 2020 04:42 PM IST 9 Photos
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A girl waits on her llama for the start of a race at the Llanganates National Park, Ecuador. At dawn on a cold morning characteristic of Ecuador’s highlands, about 20 children got ready to show off their skills in llama race this past weekend. (Dolores Ochoa / AP)

A girl waits on her llama for the start of a race at the Llanganates National Park, Ecuador. At dawn on a cold morning characteristic of Ecuador’s highlands, about 20 children got ready to show off their skills in llama race this past weekend. (Dolores Ochoa / AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 11, 2020 04:42 PM IST
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A woman gets her llama off a truck. AS the first rays of sunlight illuminated the mountains, riders between 4 and 12 years old dressed in ponchos and traditional fur and leather riding pants, known as zamarros, began to gather at the Laguna de Anteojos, where the race was held. Each child arrived with their llama at the lake, which has an elevation of 4,000 meters (13,000 feet). (Dolores ochoa / AP)

A woman gets her llama off a truck. AS the first rays of sunlight illuminated the mountains, riders between 4 and 12 years old dressed in ponchos and traditional fur and leather riding pants, known as zamarros, began to gather at the Laguna de Anteojos, where the race was held. Each child arrived with their llama at the lake, which has an elevation of 4,000 meters (13,000 feet). (Dolores ochoa / AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 11, 2020 04:42 PM IST
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The race known as “Llamingada” takes place every year in Llanganates National Park, one of the most important wetlands on the planet that covers nearly 2,200 square kilometres. The goal of the event is to raise awareness among indigenous communities about the importance of the park’s care. (Daniel Tapia / REUTERS)

The race known as “Llamingada” takes place every year in Llanganates National Park, one of the most important wetlands on the planet that covers nearly 2,200 square kilometres. The goal of the event is to raise awareness among indigenous communities about the importance of the park’s care. (Daniel Tapia / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON FEB 11, 2020 04:42 PM IST
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Kids parade on their llamas before the Llamingada. Home to about 300 lagoons and cloud forests, the park was recognized by UNESCO in 2008 because of its importance as a habitat for waterfowl. Ecuador’s environmental authorities promote llama breeding and reproduction in the region, noting the animal does not damage the ecosystem like other livestock. (Dolores ochoa / AP)

Kids parade on their llamas before the Llamingada. Home to about 300 lagoons and cloud forests, the park was recognized by UNESCO in 2008 because of its importance as a habitat for waterfowl. Ecuador’s environmental authorities promote llama breeding and reproduction in the region, noting the animal does not damage the ecosystem like other livestock. (Dolores ochoa / AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 11, 2020 04:42 PM IST
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The competitors have raised the animals, training them for work in the fields and racing competitions. Dayana Toapanta, at just 10 years old, was one of the most experienced riders and decided to return this year after recovering from a hard fall. “Jaimito makes me happy, but Pichirilo (her other llama) gives me problems because he is badly behaved,” Toapanta told Reuters. (Daniel Tapia / REUTERS)

The competitors have raised the animals, training them for work in the fields and racing competitions. Dayana Toapanta, at just 10 years old, was one of the most experienced riders and decided to return this year after recovering from a hard fall. “Jaimito makes me happy, but Pichirilo (her other llama) gives me problems because he is badly behaved,” Toapanta told Reuters. (Daniel Tapia / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON FEB 11, 2020 04:42 PM IST
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Children race their llamas. Llamas are highly valued by the area’s indigenous groups as they are a key mode of transport for those moving goods from the mountains to main roads. “The llama has a lower environmental impact because its leg has a pad shape and so it does not affect the compaction of the land,” Diego Bastidas, regional director of the Environment Ministry told Reuters. (Dolores Ochoa / AP)

Children race their llamas. Llamas are highly valued by the area’s indigenous groups as they are a key mode of transport for those moving goods from the mountains to main roads. “The llama has a lower environmental impact because its leg has a pad shape and so it does not affect the compaction of the land,” Diego Bastidas, regional director of the Environment Ministry told Reuters. (Dolores Ochoa / AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 11, 2020 04:42 PM IST
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Spectators watch racers bounce past on their steeds. Wellington Barrera, a tiny rider clad in a wool poncho, sheep-leather pants and a cowboy hat, was the only finisher in his under-3 category, bouncing 500 metres to victory. (Daniel Tapia / REUTERS)

Spectators watch racers bounce past on their steeds. Wellington Barrera, a tiny rider clad in a wool poncho, sheep-leather pants and a cowboy hat, was the only finisher in his under-3 category, bouncing 500 metres to victory. (Daniel Tapia / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON FEB 11, 2020 04:42 PM IST
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Milena Jami whips her llama to win the first place in the Llama races for children of ages seven and eight. Nine-year-old Ibeth Santafé, three times a winner in past races, was sombre after finishing third. But she came out a winner in a llama-training contest, showing mastery over her beast. (Dolores Ochoa / AP)

Milena Jami whips her llama to win the first place in the Llama races for children of ages seven and eight. Nine-year-old Ibeth Santafé, three times a winner in past races, was sombre after finishing third. But she came out a winner in a llama-training contest, showing mastery over her beast. (Dolores Ochoa / AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 11, 2020 04:42 PM IST
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A mother embraces her child after he raced his llama at the Llanganates National Park. A llama named Rayo McQueen carried 6-year-old Eric Javier Chicaiza to a win in his category. His mother, Fátima Guanotuña, said the animal was a gift to the family when the boy was born, and the two have always been close. (Dolores Ochoa / AP)

A mother embraces her child after he raced his llama at the Llanganates National Park. A llama named Rayo McQueen carried 6-year-old Eric Javier Chicaiza to a win in his category. His mother, Fátima Guanotuña, said the animal was a gift to the family when the boy was born, and the two have always been close. (Dolores Ochoa / AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 11, 2020 04:42 PM IST
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