News | 26 May 2023
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Llive, llaugh, llama

While others take their dogs on walks, Tawa local Stephen Mulholland prefers to tow his llamas around instead.

A Guanaco with a flower in its mouth with an alpaca behind it.
Guanaco Harvey (left) and alpaca Iliahi (right).

That’s exactly what he did in 2019, when he casually strolled into Tawa Library with one of his llamas, Hob.

Little did he know, that one library visit would kick-off a series of llama-related events and fame for him and his livestock. 

Stephen, who moved from the United States 20 years ago, decided that he wanted to try small farming when he settled in Wellington.

“We looked at our livestock options and decided that llamas and alpacas looked so fun, compared to other animals that needed far more property maintenance.”

While they live on a farm, he treats them like any other domestic pet. He gives every llama and alpaca a name based on different themes, and even takes them on daily walks. 

He says he normally takes a llama out around 2pm when he needs to stretch his legs from work. 

“I've had llamas and alpacas for two decades years now, and just for the hell of it I would walk them down the Main Street of Tawa when I needed a break. They’re my pets, but there’s a certain toddler like aspect to them – if your toddler is 150kgs and llama.”

A man holding on to a lead attached to a llama.
Stephen and his llama, Ziggy.

Eventually people begun to recognise him and Hob, who became affectionately known by the community as the ‘Tawa Llama.’ 

“I am a terrible troublemaker,” he laughs. “Sometimes I’ll take a llama into the local vet and ask them to help my dog because it can’t bark and only eats grass.”

His troublemaking led him to visit the Tawa library, where he wandered in to say hello to the staff with a llama in tow. 

While the library staff were initially shocked to see someone walk livestock through the halls, the team set up an event in Tawa where people could come and listen to a story time about llamas and get the chance to pat one. 

This event was so popular that they ran it again recently with a meet and greet day at Waitohi library, where Stephen brought along his llama Ziggy, alpaca Iliahi and guanaco Harvey. 

Librarian Mary was one of the champions behind the event and says that they have been focusing on ways to teach people about animals while showing the range of activities that libraries can offer. 

“Libraries do a whole variety of different things – we have after school events and a lot on during the school holidays. I think its positive to give kids a chance to interact with animals they might not normally interact with, such as large livestock animals rather than cats and dogs. We want them to understand how to act around them and keep safe, while also caring for the animal.”

People patting a llama.
Ziggy, the deaf llama, being the centre of attention.

Nearly 400 people flocked to the event, to give them a pat and hear about the amazing camelids. 

But what’s Stephen’s favourite part of bringing his llamas out in public? He says it’s all about the shock reactions.

“It’s so nice to see the look of joy on people’s faces. It’s a weird social experiment where you’re walking them around and you can just see people stop and notice them. When people walk past me and don’t react, I’m always like ‘Did you not see the llama?’. I like to brighten up someone’s day.”