With llama love

Illustration of two llamas intertwining necks
Nishali Naik/Staff

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Let There Be Llama Light!

The llamas have once again brought their bright spirits to campus this academic year during the fall 2019 finals season and brought joy and good energy to the curious minds making their way through Memorial Glade.

My name is George Caldwell. Friends, call me Geo. I have been working with llamas for 37 years, taking them to the mountains, llama shows, nursing homes, schools, weddings, corporate rollouts and Rotary Club meetings. My eyes have seen the excitement, laughter, smiles and joy that the llamas bring to people of all ages and ethnicities. In 2005, my wife and I made the journey to Peru to try to understand the culture that produced these amazing creatures. The journey was so compelling that I have returned five times to explore the wonders of the Andes Mountains. I have learned about llamas and the ancient culture of the Andes. According to the ancients, the llamas are our “speechless brothers” who were dreamed into existence to communicate at the soul level.

That is the crux of the situation. The llamas are capable of deep communication with open hearts. Just the sight of these llamas brings a light, happy feeling to most. To be able to interact with them on a personal level opens a deeper level of goodwill. The llamas we bring to UC Berkeley are all learning how to best communicate with people.

I have brought llamas to UC Berkeley for many events in the past five years — this marks the sixth year that students and staff have interacted with the llamas. Six years ago, I brought my old, steady llamas that had spent their youth packing on the trails and competing at llama shows. The most personable and intelligent traveled to visit many people at socially intensive events. Those early llamas had spent a lot of time with people and felt at ease here on campus, where their interactions with people were gentle and respectful.

This year, we brought to campus our old llama, Sage, and seven young llamas in training to work in Animal Assisted Intervention. To make the llamas feel especially at home and to bring a peaceful mood to the Glade, Fred Clarke Alvarez added occasional sounds of flute pipes into the atmosphere of peaceful llamas out enjoying the Glade. Fred, who worked in Peru in Animal Assisted Intervention, has spent his life learning to use the sounds of the ancient Andes.

The seven young llamas we brought to campus ranged in age from one to four. Their leader, Mystical Amigo, is beginning to figure people out and understand individuals. Yachay is especially aware, but all seven young llamas are in training to work in the field of mental health.? They are learning to greet people with the llama greeting they use for each other.

We have traveled more than 65,000 miles transporting llamas throughout the Bay Area over the past six years. We are training llamas for jobs that do not yet exist, persistent in our vision that llamas have a most unusual skill set for working with people to improve mental health and well-being. But without rigorous studies conducted to prove their efficacy in promoting well-being, we must keep utilizing their positive energy until it is recognized and studied.

Unfortunately, the pool of llamas to choose from is dwindling. While there were about 10,000 llamas in California in 2000, there are probably less than 1,000 today. We personally stopped breeding in 2005 because there were no more good homes looking for quality llamas. It has been a struggle to even find the 11 young llamas we have in training. The gene pool is dwindling both here and in the Andes, where the lifestyle of the mountain people often no longer includes llamas.

Nonetheless, all members of the Berkeley community are invited to meet with Quinoa, Mystical Amigo and their friends as they learn about people in a safe environment. The reception they receive at UC Berkeley is different from all other campus environments. They appreciate the calm of Memorial Glade and the kind attention they receive. I truly wish UC Berkeley had its own herd of llamas that made their way through campus every day, browsing and interacting with students and staff alike. Every day could be “The best day on campus ever!” We could make that happen if there was enough public interest.

Everyone who even sees these llamas goes away with a smile and an overall good feeling. The llamas were Pacha Mama’s gift to the people of the Andes. Please, come face-to-face with these lovable guys and experience their good energy. We will personally introduce you to the llamas.

Let There Be Light. The feeling that is around the llamas is one of lightness. It is good, and it is energy to be seen and shared.

With Llama Love, Geo.

George “Geo” Caldwell has been working with llamas for 37 years and is involved in Animal Assisted Intervention.