Some of you may know I have kind of a “thing” about llamas. I used to live in a house with about an acre of grassy land around it, in an area where there were quite a few llama ranches. I really think llamas are cool, and I wanted to have one in the yard. There was enough grass for it to eat, and they keep it trimmed nicely. They take care of their own messes in an isolated spot, they’re friendly (while not tolerating stray dogs), and they are even well-behaved enough to ride in a car (OK, it has to be a van, but still). Oh yeah, they hum when they want to tell you something :) And seriously, just look at that face. What’s not to like?
Well, this was not to be. Llamas are expensive around here, and even to me, I had to think it was harder to keep one than it sounded. It didn’t help my obsession any when I went to Peru and got to see flocks of llamas and alpacas roaming the Andes. So anyway, it’s my birthday, and I went out to lunch with my Mom, and she hands me a little wrapped packet that feels like paper, folded over. I’m figuring this is one of her famous travel journals, since she just got back from a trip to South America. But no, it’s a llama! Well, a llama for a family in Peru. Which really, is even better. I was excited :)
It turns out there’s an organization called Heifer that gives various forms of farm animals (as well as fish, bees, vegetables, etc.) to promote sustainable agriculture and food security in parts of the world that desperately need it. Aside from all the virtues of llamas as a pet, they have far more virtues to a family in the remote mountains of Peru and Ecuador. The give milk and wool, they carry goods to market, provide transportation for children, and need little to no feed. They are very easy on the landscape, which is important in areas that could easily become eroded or trampled by other forms of livestock.
This organization also does a lot to promote the health of both the families and the animals, training, peace among communities (including reconciliation among former enemies), and long-term sustainability. My sister-in-law got a goat for her birthday, which she’s almost as fanatical about as I am about llamas. So if you have a friend or family member who loves cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, llamas, rabbits, ducks, geese, bees, or, hmm… I’ve probably forgotten a few, check it out!