'Overwhelming' response to online alpaca giveaway

Six alpaca in total were given away.
Six alpaca in total were given away. Photo credit: Sam Heath

It's not every day you see a herd of alpacas being given away free.

But that's exactly what happened earlier this week on the Vic Deals Facebook page.

"No clue if this is allowed here or not but I have a bunch of alpacas to give away!" Sam Heath posted to the page.

"We love these adorable gals but no longer have the land to feed them. If you or someone you know would like them flick me a PM."

And it seems there's more than a few Kiwis out there dreaming of owning a pet alpaca, with the post receiving a torrent of interest, including more than 1700 comments.

"Surely there's enough space in the backyard...cheap lawn mower?" replied one person.

"Think our landlord will allow us to have two?" wrote another.

Heath, 22, told Newshub the response was "overwhelming".

"In a little over an hour I had about 30 Facebook messages, 50 texts and 10 missed calls," she said.

"That definitely surprised me. Not what I was expecting at all."

The animals - four adults and two babies - were being given away as the family was downsizing their farm, which is located 20 minutes out of Carterton, Heath said.

So far three people had been chosen to take the animals, and despite the jokes about keeping one in the garden, Heath said all had gone to suitable farms. 

"Two I chose specifically because they only had one existing alpaca," Heath said. 

"Alpacas get lonely by themselves so It was important to me that some sad alpacas get some friends. The rest of the alpacas have gone to someone who doesn't live too far away from us and has plenty of room so was able to take the babies and mothers together."

Alpaca expert Dr Stephen Mulholland, from the Camelid Health Trust, said according to New Zealand law alpacas can only be kept if there are a minimum of two. Ideally they would be kept in groups of five or more, he said.

"You can separate them, but if you know some animals are buddies, try to keep them together."

 'Overwhelming' response to online alpaca giveaway
Photo credit: Sam Heath

Dr Mullholland said the animals were easy to keep, though basic care and handling was of course required as they are a stock animal.

"The most difficult thing health-wise with alpaca is that they are very stoic," he said. 

"They can be injured, sick, in pain, and do a very good job at not showing it. This can cause many new/inexperienced owners to some to grief, as they miss the subtle signs. By the time an alpaca (or llama) is obviously sick, it is likely very, very sick and saving it can be quite the challenge."

He said when it comes to braving challenging weather conditions, alpaca can cope with cold and windy conditions, cold and rainy conditions, or rainy and windy conditions - but not cold, rainy and windy conditions all at once.

"Cold + rain + wind = trouble!" he said.

Dr Mullholland said a common question he is asked is "do alpacas spit?", to which he has a simple answer: "Yes, they are camels. They (alpacas, llamas, guanaco, vicuna, dromedary, bactrian) all spit."

In general though unless they are provoked, they should behave, he said.

"An alpaca that is spitting on you without provocation may have been mis-socialised. Or maybe it has learned to hate humans (some zoo animals). Or maybe it is just a right nasty bugger! 

"So if they are angry, or afraid, don't be surprised by a spit."