For those just joining the internet today: hearts and minds across America were swept away by the spellbinding spectacle of a pair of lively llamas on the loose in Phoenix who apparently came from nowhere, took a while to run down, and by the end of their escapade had become the heartily hailed heroes of a thousand news sites that were bored with covering the whole “net neutrality” thing. Internet freedom was out; llama freedom was in.
I may have missed out on today’s llama craze, but I’m okay with that. This wouldn’t have been my first llama rodeo. Our family has encountered these affable animals on two of our previous road trips. Those Arizona lawmen may have struggled to keep up with their quarry, but it’s been our experience that llamas aren’t that hard to catch if you go meet them where they like to hang out.
Curiously, we’ve never photographed a llama at our own Indianapolis Zoo. I’d never noticed this curious omission until I reviewed the files from our last three zoo trips and came up llamaless. Our llama encounters were in zoos in two different states on opposite ends of the country. From the captivity perspective, llamas are everywhere.
We previously shared one of our llama photos from our 2012 visit to Colorado, where we met a pair at the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park in Cañon City. The bridge is their star attraction, but crossing it allows you to view a number of fenced areas where several different pack animals dwell. They clustered under any available shade because the searing temperatures had sapped their strength and/or really bummed them out. We weren’t as close to them as these three photos would imply, but I got the impression they wouldn’t have been hard to capture if we’d been given the chance.
Our family’s first llama experience happened on our 2008 road trip to Virginia Beach. (I’ve not yet remastered this trip’s travelog for MCC because it remains our least favorite vacation of all time. Someday, though, it’ll be addressed here.) On the way home we stopped at the Natural Bridge Zoo in the town of Natural Bridge, Virginia. I’ll always hold a place for them in my memory because we’ve never, before or since, seen a zoo with fewer safeguards.
Many of their animals were in wide, fenced areas. Some were in smaller pens. A few were in the kind of lockups I haven’t seen since the 1980s. These llamas, on the other hand, could’ve made a break for it and possibly stolen an employee’s car to make their getaway. Instead they decided to make a game out of blending in with the tourists.
This unfettered, unlimited llama access didn’t cost us extra. This wasn’t a special llama petting attraction. These were just llamas left to their own devices while the poor elephant was forced to stay within its confines and not be allowed to visit the snack bar anytime it wanted. We have no idea why the llamas merited special treatment. All we know is we were right there next to them, and no one put us on national TV.
…and for those keeping tabs on this evening’s other hot-button internet topic: all llamas in this entry were gold and white. Thank you.