Woolly jumpers: llama-handling challenge to help build work skills

The new team-building experience, run by a Perthshire glamping firm, is thought to be the first in the world to use llamas for a skills course. Picture: Christopher Jones/REX
The new team-building experience, run by a Perthshire glamping firm, is thought to be the first in the world to use llamas for a skills course. Picture: Christopher Jones/REX
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Escaping a locked room, paddling down a tumultuous river or driving a military tank are just some of an increasingly eclectic list of activities that have become popular with businesses as methods for team-building and improving staff performance.

Now a quirky new challenge is on offer, designed to improve persuasion, patience, persistence and collaboration skills among participants.

It involves coaxing one of the planet’s most notoriously stubborn animals to complete a defined set of challenges, including leaping over obstacles, tackling a slalom course and navigating a maze.

Those taking part will operate in pairs, competing against colleagues to finish the task in the fastest time.

But the animal is not a mule. It’s a llama.

Event organisers, Perthshire glamping firm Ecocamp Glenshee, believe people can learn a lot from interaction with llamas, which have “unique” characteristics.

“We aim to make our llama experience an enjoyable, light-hearted couple of hours away from the office,” said owner and founder Simon Calvin.

“But essentially it gives delegates the opportunity to learn and develop some key skills such as persuasion, patience and perseverance to get our Llamas to complete the tasks we set them.

“All these skills are totally transferable and of much use in the boardroom.”

Prior to competing in the skills test, delegates will have the opportunity to feed and groom the llamas before leading them on a short trek to the competition area.

Despite their sheep-like appearance, llamas are actually South American members of the camel family.

Males are known as machos and females are hembras. They are known to be friendly and sociable creatures, which for centuries have been used as domestic pack animals by peoples in the Andes.

However,if not handled correctly, their behaviour can change abruptly – upsets can result in anything from spitting, kicking, ramming and neck-wrestling to lying down and refusing to move.

Mr Calvin added: “Our llamas – Bonita, Jet, Atticus and Bradford – are all powerful and stubborn animals, and yet when treated in the right way can be completely compliant. Shouting and force will not get you very far.

“We aim to teach our delegates the key skills and patience to work out what the Llama is thinking, get inside its head and ultimately make it do what you want it to do.”

The novel Llama Trek experience is attracting attention among corporate events organisers.

Dale Strang, operations manager at local adventure firm Nae Limits, said: “Unique, and different to our usual white water rafting, that’s for sure. Who knows, maybe we can combine them in the future because who doesn’t love a llama.

“Could it catch on? You’d be surprised. I think it will fly.

“Would it help people learn new skills?

“I think spending time with colleagues in the Scottish outdoors and out of the work environment is always great, no matter the challenge.”