Llamas are as familiar as finals at Berkeley. Just when they’re needed most, these intelligent, highly social relatives of the camel hop in a van in the Sierra foothills and head to campus to romp with students and pose for selfies on Memorial Glade.
This Friday, the last day of spring semester classes, the ASUC is unveiling its first-ever Lllamapalooza, a llama festival. Six llamas will arrive on Memorial Glade at 10 a.m., eager for students to guide them through an obstacle course, groom and feed them and pose with them for selfies. The fun, which runs until 1 p.m., also will include music by a pan flute player, a Peruvian craft fair hosted by a student group, games with prizes and freebies.
The llamas live at Llamas of Circle Home, a ranch in Sonora run by George “Geo” Caldwell, who has worked with llamas since 1982. He takes them to meet people at schools, nursing homes, tech events, nature trails and city parks. Llamas are increasingly used in animal therapy to benefit humans’ mental and physical health.
Business major Ana Claire Mancia, a junior with the official title of “llama coordinator” in the ASUC academic affairs vice president’s office, put together Llamapalooza, as well as the llamas’ previous visits to campus, including for Suicide Awareness Week.
“The llamas have become an integral part of students’ college experience here,” she says, “and we’ve seen a deep connection between the students and the llamas. UC Berkeley can be a very stressful place, especially during finals, and the llamas provide many mental health benefits. They are profound stress-relievers and remind us to put everything in perspective.”