10 September 2021

Canberra's beloved therapy alpacas are looking for a retirement home. Can you help?

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Nils Lantzke

Nils Lantzke with two of his trained therapy alpacas. Photo: File.

If you’ve got a spare five hectares, a shed and some cattle yards, you could throw a lifeline to some of Canberra’s most beloved four-legged citizens.

Nils Lantzke’s therapy alpacas are looking for a new home when their current agistment arrangements at Wallaroo come to an end in the next few months.

The alpacas have been happily grazing there since Nils retired from his therapy work at the beginning of the year, but as the owners change their property usage, he’s hoping there’s someone else who can lend a hand and keep the herd together.

The animal therapy idea took root in 1994 and his first alpaca, Honeycomb, arrived in October 2003. Nils walked the tiny alpaca around the streets where he immediately made friends and they showed their potential for helping seriously ill and vulnerable people.

He took the alpacas into Clare Holland House, the Adult Mental Health Unit and hospitals. Managers and clinicians saw the value immediately. Honeycomb became locally famous, hanging out the back window of Nils’ hatchback.

More recently, there was a wave of public support after Mimosa and Hercules were savaged by an unleashed dog while walking in Giralang as its owner filmed the attack.

READ ALSO Canberra’s beloved alpaca therapy program ends as Nils Lantzke and his flock retire

A mix of factors influenced Nils’ decision to call it a day on the therapy program, including COVID-19 restrictions which prevented him from taking the alpacas into many of the places where they’ve worked in the past. He still sees them as his children and is keen to find a place where they can retire too.

Nils visits the alpacas regularly to bring them their favourite carrots, beetroots and sultanas, and needs somewhere fairly close to Canberra and accessible by two-wheel drive.

He’s arranging to have the alpacas shorn early ahead of the move. They will need somewhere with shelter, stockyards and a cattle crush so they can have their toenails clipped. Alpacas run at about the same stocking rate as sheep, so he’s looking for around four to five hectares for his little herd.

Two of the girls are 18, some of the others are 14 and the youngest is three. Alpacas can live to between 20 and 25 years of age. Nils says they are easy care and friendly.

“Mercury will come up for you to massage her neck”, he says. “Hercules doesn’t enjoy pats, but he does love eating blueberries out of your hand. Willow, the youngest is very loving and will come up and give you kisses. Paprika loves being patted too.”

Although Nils will take care of the alpacas, he’s looking for someone who will keep an eye on them to ensure they don’t get stuck in fences or come to any harm.

“Before lockdown, stressed people came out to the farm to pat them and feed them. Everybody who met them was overwhelmed with their loving nature and said how peaceful it was. I guess peaceful is the one word I’d use about them.”

Nils is hoping that the bounteous season we’ve had means that people with full dams and grassy paddocks will need grazing stock to keep the growth down. A bonus is that several of the alpacas, including Hercules, are particularly keen on chasing foxes. Nils is happy to negotiate agistment costs.

“Hercules and Paprika and Willow all did so much work at the hospice, and Giraffe brought so much happiness to autistic kids. These poor animals who have done a lot of therapy work deserve a home. We’ve always done our very best to look after them and you won’t find healthier animals anywhere,” Nils says.

“We just want someone who is going to love them.”

If you have agistment available, email us at editor@region.com.au with details and we’ll pass them on to Nils.

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