A pair of alpacas has been brought into the Belgian Embassy in Canberra after foxes killed the ambassador’s beloved pet ducks.
Belgian Ambassador to Australia Michel Goffin has kept ducks since he was gifted a pair while stationed at the consulate in Laos in 2012.
He kept his duck flock going at his next assignment in the Philippines and when he moved to Australia’s capital in late June 2021.
“When I arrived in Canberra in the residence here, it was big land, three hectares of garden and forest, I thought, well I’m continuing with my duck farm hobby,” he says.
“There are a lot of foxes here in Canberra – my first batch of ducks were killed after three days.”
Losing his ducks to foxes hasn’t deterred the ambassador and he’s planning on getting more.
But this time, he wants to make sure they’re safe.
“I investigated a bit on the internet and we can do a lot of things to protect poultry … apparently the best idea is to have alpacas,” he says.
The alpacas Pablo and Boris (named for his hair, similar to United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s) are from Sensuri Alpacas in Braidwood, just outside the ACT.
Sensuri owner Catherine Lukin says a retired diplomat owned the pair.
“We thought that was a nice connection,” she says.
“They will coordinate their efforts to get rid of foxes.
“They will try and corner them in a fence if they can and they stamp them with their toenail and 60 kilograms of weight behind them.”
2021 marks the 60th anniversary of the Belgian embassy’s construction in Canberra.
The alpacas and ducks are a part of a wider sustainability and tourism project.
“The Belgian Embassy in Canberra is already one of the best spots for tourism; we see buses coming around a lot,” Mr Goffin says.
“It’s really a beautiful residence.”
Pablo and Boris are proving popular among embassy staff too.
“They love them,” Mr Goffin says.
“They come on a regular basis to say hello… the chancellery office is in the same compound so you can see them very closely.”
There are plans to knit clothes from the alpaca wool.
The ambassador has also rescued the beehives on the grounds that were going to be removed.
“We are going to train our staff to take care of the bees, so we’ll also have honey production.”
Profits from the ‘.be hives’ honey will be 100 per cent donated to charity.
It’s not just alpacas, ducks and bees at the Belgian menagerie.
The ambassador has been encouraging wild sulphur-crested cockatoos to become regular visitors.
“They are absolutely magic,” he says.
“I’m buying 50 kilos a month of sunflower seeds. I have a big bird feeder and they are really enjoying the Belgian Embassy.”
Mr Goffin admits he’s a bit of a farming ambassador.
“Australia is a great country for animals and biodiversity, and we have a great property here, so I might as well use it in the right way,” he says.
The ongoing adventures of Pablo and Boris will be posted on the Belgian Embassy Facebook page.