Climate change continues to wreck havoc in Peru's southern Altiplano, where the arrival of freezing temperatures since March - almost three months earlier than usual - have killed at least 20,000 alpaca, reported Peru's National Agriculture and Sanitation Service, or Senasa.

Since January, approximately 20,000 alpaca - a number that still remains within normal limits - have died, and 73,000 others have suffered from various illnesses due to the cold, said Senasa Director Reinaldo Llano Flores.

Alpacas, or vicugna pacos, is a domesticated species of South American camelid, and resembles a small llama. These animals are mostly kept in herds, and bred specifically for their high-quality fiber.

When exposed to cold temperatures, alpacas are most likely to suffer from pneumonia, gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, and enterotoxaemia - an infection by Clostridium perfringens, bacteria which affects several types of domesticated animals, but not humans.

"Most families who raise alpacas in high Andean areas don't have sufficient forage stored for their animals. And if their animals eat grass, they could suffer from enterotoxaemia and die if they are not treated with antibiotics," said Hernán Saavedra, the regional director of Peru's National Meteorology and Hydrology Institute or Senamhi.

"We need more money to buy medicine and to prevent more deaths," said Llano in comments to daily El Comercio.