The personality of a llama is something like that of a cat: standoffish at first, but sweet and friendly once trust is established, says Chandler resident Barbara Peacock, whose rescue group is asking the public for financial help.
The personality of a llama is something like that of a cat: standoffish at first, but sweet and friendly once trust is established, says Barbara Peacock, who fosters abandoned llamas out of her Chandler home.
The ongoing economic recession is having an impact in some unexpected places, such as on llama owners who can no longer afford to care for their animals Peacock said. Her group, Arizona Llama Rescue, which places homeless llamas with qualified owners, has seen more and more people surrendering their animals, and is asking the public for financial help.
Many llamas the group takes in have been abused or are otherwise physically impaired, making them hard to adopt out, she said.
"Lots of times we don't know where they come from or their history," Peacock said. "We're ending up about like a sanctuary now."
Peacock, a professional artist, and her husband, Don, a retired pilot, have hosted llamas on their two-acre property at 1535 E. Gunstock Circle, along the Consolidated Canal southeast of Pecos Road and 124th Street, since they moved in about 25 years ago. Peacock said she'd been drawn to llamas ever since seeing a glossy magazine featuring them.
"I just thought they were wonderful animals," she said. "My husband is allergic to dogs, and horses scare me."
Llamas, originally from South America but related to camels, mainly are bought to be pack animals for hikers and as pets. The animals, which can weigh up to 450 pounds and live more than 20 years, can be taken on equestrian trails, Peacock said. They eat what's available, but not in great quantities, and they tread softly since they don't wear metal shoes.
"They carry all your stuff so you don't have to carry it around," Peacock said. "They love to go hiking. They love to see what's out there."
She said she used to have a social group of women hikers who used llamas, called the "Llama Mamas." Llamas' gentle personalities often are suited to women owners, she said.
"You have to gain their trust and treat them gently," Peacock said.
They make hardy pack animals. The main maladies that afflict llamas are valley fever and heat stress, she said.
"They don't eat much and they don't get sick," Peacock said. "This is the time of year when people go hiking with their llamas."
The animals leave droppings similar to those of a deer or elk, and it makes good fertilizer, she said. A man in Queen Creek uses all the droppings collected at Peacock's property in his orchard, she said.
These days, she has three llamas and an alpaca, a closely related animal, on her property. Her neighbors all have horses, and a horse retirement farm sits just up the way. Peacock runs Arizona Llama Rescue, which she says is the only llama rescue group in Arizona, with Dave Salgy and Alicia Santiago, who keep rescued llamas on properties in Queen Creek and Snowflake, she said.
The three llamas - a 19-year-old male named Sinbad and two 15-year-old females named Peachycheeks and Skylark - are pets. The alpaca is a rescue that is going to a woman in Mayer. Four other llamas recently went to a hiking outfit in Utah. Two more female llamas, each with a baby, are expected next week.
Peacock said she anticipates a coming rise in the number of abandoned alpacas, which are raised commercially for their fine fur.
"We expect more now that there's not as much money in it as there used to be," she said.
Animals are abandoned mainly because the owners have lost jobs, gone through a death or divorce, or it's just too much work, she said. Potential adopters must have a horse property, proper fencing and landscaping, and shade, she said. Adoption fees run $300 to $500, and include shearing, grooming and vaccinations.
"They eat about a quarter of what a horse eats," Peacock said.
Peacock and other rescue group members have been paying much of the cost of caring for the animals out of their own pockets and are asking for help from the public. To donate, visit www.azllamarescue.org.