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Tuesday, 18 December, 2001, 07:52 GMT
Llama patrols protect Christmas trees
llama stock pictures
The llamas are fierce security guards
A Midland farmer is using furry 6ft security guards to deter thieves from up-rooting his Christmas tree crop - two llamas.

Topaz and Lancelot are so fiercely territorial that when they are put into neighbouring compounds at night any burglar who comes across their path is in for a big shock.

Owner of Hoo Farm in Shropshire, Edward Dorrell, said the noise of a 600lb, spitting llama in full charge in the dead of night is probably enough to make any thief turn tail.

The Andean "guard dogs" are proving effective and have almost eliminated the usual nightly disappearance of firs in the run up to Christmas.

Very 'unfriendly'

Mr Dorrell, who runs an animal attraction near Telford, said the pair take no prisoners.

"One of the problems of living near a large town is that people pilfer Christmas trees," he said.

"Apart from having people there all night it's difficult to control.

"The two bull llamas don't really like one another.

One of the llamas at Hoo Farm being fed by a visitor
The llama pair are favourites with visitors
"If they hear anybody jumping over the fence they don't know if it's another llama or a burglar.

"They're likely to run at them first and ask questions later."

He said about 50 trees a year - worth a total of about 750 - were being taken from the 15-acre Christmas tree plantation.

But the anti-burglar llamas have cut the crime rate to almost zero.

"We have signs up and thieves don't know what they'll get from a llama and aren't very keen to find out," he said.

Best species

"They have a horrible spit and if anyone got that on them they would have a lot of explaining to do.

"But they can also kick and have very large teeth."

He said the pair have proved the most successful of the animals from the farm who have been press-ganged in to security work.

"We have tried geese but they're susceptible to being nicked themselves or being taken by foxes.

"Ostriches have been very difficult to get in during the morning to allow customers to choose their trees.

"Catching the llamas isn't a problem."

Click here to go to BBC Shropshire
See also:

23 Sep 99 | Farming in crisis
Lodgers to llamas: Making ends meet
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