Photo Friday: Andean Herders Cope with Climate Change

Allison Caine was recently living in a community of alpaca herders in the Cusco region of Peru conducting extensive fieldwork as part of her PhD program in anthropology at the University of Michigan. These photographs are an element in her research, which focuses on how alpaca herders evaluate environmental changes and adapt their daily and seasonal practices. In many herding communities in this region,  women are often the primary herders.

Glaciers form a key element of Caine’s research. Their rapid retreat in recent decades has altered streamflow and affected the wetlands the herders manage, often negatively. Streamside wetlands are a crucial resource for the herds, particularly in the dry season. The dramatic, visible loss of glaciers has a strong cultural impact as well.

The following photos have been provided to GlacierHub courtesy of Allison Caine.


A herder walks the ridge above pastures, with Mount Ausangate in the distance.


A herder looks over pastures, keeping an eye out for wandering animals.


Two llamas pause on a hilltop. Male llamas roam the hilltops on their own, while herders pasture alpaca and sheep on the hillsides and in valleys below (Photo by Nikolas Sweet).


In a corral on the shores of Sibina Qocha a herder treats her alpacas' illness with an herbal tincture.
In a corral on the shores of Sibina Qocha, a herder treats her alpacas’ illness with an herbal tincture, a type of medicine dissolved in alcohol.


A herder washes quinoa in the glacial springs emanating from the glaciated peaks of the Cordillera Vilcanota.
A herder washes quinoa in a glacier-fed stream in the Cordillera Vilcanota.


A herder washes medicinal plants in a glacier-fed pond in the Cordillera Vilcanota.


A young girl takes a flying leap over a glacial river at 16,000 feet above sea-level.