It was a case of animal magic when a pair of alpaca brought a piece of Peru to a care home in Peeblesshire.
The cute members of the camel family made a VIP visit to Whim Hall where residents were intrigued by their calm and charismatic qualities.
Residents could admire the animals at close quarters and feed them carrots while learning about their traits and temperaments.
The visit was part of a regular range of activities designed to entertain residents, provide new experiences and encourage the development of different interests and skills.
Whim Hall activities co-ordinator Isobel Roast (correct) said: “There was a wonderful response from residents who were eager to get involved and had a lot of questions about the animals.
“We learned that alpacas are closely related to llamas but are smaller with a more rounded body.
“They are incredibly tactile animals and because they were due to be sheared later that week they still had their wonderful, thick woolly coats.
“Our residents were mesmerised and wanted to know whether the fleece can be used for knitting. The answer is ‘yes’ but spinning the fleece is a very lengthy process. It means garments made from alpaca fleece are more expensive than those made from sheep’s wool.”
Thistle and Pearson, the two alpacas chosen for the visit to Whim Hall, Lamancha, West Linton, are from a herd at Velvet Hall Farm, Innerleithen.
The farm organises alpaca treks around the Tweed Valley, sells raw fleece for spinning, arranges educational visits, stages feeding and photo sessions and has a breeding programme.
Isobel said; “Many of our residents have agricultural backgrounds and were very interested in hearing details about the animals’ care. Alpacas are apparently very good to keep alongside chickens because they dislike and chase away foxes.
“Everyone who took part loved stroking the animals and those who enjoy knitting teased out bits of fleece to examine it more closely.
“One 92-year-old lady even asked whether she would be able to ride an alpaca. But we were told the animals don’t have such strong backs as horses and aren’t suitable for riding.
“We were also amazed to learn that alpacas can be house trained. However, it was such a lovely day that the animals stayed in the garden and we went out in the sunshine to meet them.
“Residents enjoyed ice pops and the alpacas were given water to keep cool. The visit was an enormous success.”
Alpacas were domesticated by the Incas approximately 6,000 years ago and graze widely in the Andes mountains of South America. They are the world’s oldest domesticated species and there are about three million alpacas in Peru today.
They continue to be bred in the Andes for their luxurious fibre and for meat in the same way that sheep provide both wool and meat in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
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