They are more commonly seen in the Andes but, believe it or not, Shetland will soon be playing host to its first family of alpacas.
Ten of the curious creatures are being brought up by animal lover Philippa Arnot. She hopes to see the animals arriving off the ferry just before Christmas, at the end of a lengthy journey from their previous home in Dorset.
Philippa’s husband Colin – who has already settled here and is working at the council’s housing department – is busily preparing a place for the animals to live at the couple’s new home in Dunrossness.
It is hoped the new menagerie, which will also contain eight rugged soay sheep, could become a focal point for visitors interested in seeing such an unusual creature on these shores.
But what, exactly, is the attraction in alpacas? “They’re lovely,” said Philippa, who juggles looking after them with her job as performance manager at Dorset Primary Care Trust while preparing to move here at the same time.
“They’re quite easy to look after, although they are quite timid compared to sheep. I had a horse and was buying a field for it but I ended up buying more land than it needed. I was looking for some animals to keep the grass down. I saw some alpacas and fell in love with them.”
She bought an initial three females, however since then she has acquired males as well, leaving her with a growing family.
She believes one of the females may be pregnant, and could give birth to a baby alpaca – or cria – around next May.
Looking forward, she is hoping tourists might be persuaded over time to come forward and see Shetland’s first family of alpacas for themselves – although she is anxious that they should be given time initially to settle into their new surroundings.
“We’re hoping the tourist industry might be interested in them. That would be something I would like to get involved with.”
For full story, see Friday’s Shetland Times.