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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 April, 2003, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
Llamas lighten the load for walkers
Llama on the shores of Lake Titicaca
Llamas are native to South America

Walkers in Gloucestershire are being encouraged to let a llama carry their lunch while they enjoy the scenery.

The Forest of Dean is welcoming a touch of South American style with the launch of llama treks through the countryside.

The south American animals can be hired out to carry lunches, bags and accompany walkers through the forest in a new tourism initiative.

Alastair Fraser of Severnwye Llama Trekking has trained 16 of the creatures, which he says have "beautiful, tranquil temperaments" and are good with children.

Beasts of burden

Mr Fraser said: "They are the oldest domestic animal in the world, domesticated before the horse, before the cow and they are beasts of burden.

"They have a beautiful temperament and are very tranquil.

"A five-year-old child could lead a six-foot llama and they are quite easy to train."

He said the British climate suits the animals, which are used to surviving high in the Andes.

Despite being capable of carrying a third of their body weight, the llamas will only carry up to 50 lbs and will never be ridden by humans - in line with British Llama Club policy.

Designated routes

The llamas are based on a farm near Chepstow, but graze at stables at Speech House in the forest.

Val Long, of the Forestry Commission, said: "This is a new business for the Forest of Dean and a lot of the treks will take place on Forestry Commission land.

"We have provided routes for them to use and hopefully it will be a very popular activity."

The llamas operate in pairs with a handler and cost 50 each to hire for half a day, including a basic lunch.

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