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Guidelines for spending time
with young llamas
Why mentor a young llama? Won't the mother take care of that stuff?
Humans and llamas coexist in a domesticated social environment. Just as we define the llamas' role in our lives, so too our presence shapes our role in their lives. Our role depends on how we shape it — each and every time we interact with any llama, particularly young, impressionable ones. Yes, mom's responses and reactions (while mom is present) influence the youngster's perceptions, but mom has only so much control and won't be providing an example for very long either. If we don't define ourselves clearly, then our llamas will do it for us. The most acceptable goal for both human and llama is for humans to be unquestionably respected without being frightening.
Having a domestic companion animal that is afraid of humans is, well, a contradiction. Having a nervous beef steer is inconvenient when it comes time for, say, medical treatment. Having a chronically difficult-to-catch llama isn't what humans really want, even if many humans come to accept it and rationalize their displeasure. Llamas do not have to be afraid of humans for us to be safe, but their early interactions with humans do need to be structured carefully to be sure that two important goals (comfort around us and respect for us) can be achieved. This becomes possible when humans have learned how to shape their role by providing to the cria through what might be best called mentoring: teaching correct social behavior around and toward humans.