I had another go at llama walking last weekend. Due to the foot and mouth outbreak earlier in the year all llama walking (and the movement of most other animals) was suspended over the summer in the South of England. This came at the busiest time of year and has caused real hardship amongst the community. (The owner of the company told us he had been forced to go back to full time work for a while and was hating it!) The walking finally resumed at the beginning of November so I combined some market research with catching up with a friend and we went on a Sunday morning trek followed by a pub lunch. It turned out to be just the two of us, two llamas (Pandu and Mungo) and the owner. It was very pleasant. The llamas were good company and seemed to enjoy the chance to get out. They took every opportunity to eat as much bracken, nettles, trees etc as they could, rolled over in the sand a few times, scratched their bellies on the heather and surveyed the landscape from above (see picture).
I heard a llama hum for the first time (a sort of gentle guttural sound almost like a purr) and I saw a llama kick a dog that got too close (a remarkably quick move for such a large animal). I found out more things about llamas and felt quite comfortable with such awkward looking but elegant and dignified creatures. I learnt that they form close bonds with each other to the extent that if their best friend in the herd dies they can just give up, sit down and never get up again, dying of a broken heart. This had happened to two of the llamas from the herd we were with. One had collapsed and died of a heart attack and his best friend had just given up. I also found out that they are susceptible to bovine TB and two if the biggest breeders in the UK have lost most of their herds.
Ian and I are looking into the costs of importing some llamas from Peru (on the grounds that the cost of transporting them may be not much more than buying them in France). The problem in France is that the national herd is quite small and many of the llamas are related to each in some way! We reckon if we got a genetically different stud male he may pay his way quite quickly!