Meet Alan the Alpaca – a star of Brownhill Creek Tourist Park
Not many local tourist parks can claim a pet mascot, except this one.
by Carla Caruso
*Editor’s note: Since posting this story, we’ve heard the sad news that Al passed away unexpectedly from a short illness in January. He’s much missed locally.*
From alpaca-themed kids’ parties to Matt Cosgrove’s Macca the Alpaca books, the South American animals are proving very ‘on trend’ right now.
And, as Play & Go discovered, another local alpaca has been getting attention from passers-by lately. He’s known as ‘Alan the Alpaca’ and he lives at Brownhill Creek Tourist Park.
Alan the Alpaca
Ashley Pursche, pictured, who helps manage the park, says it was his wife Denise’s idea to get a pet alpaca.
“Denise said to [tourist park owner] Gavin [Dyer], we need some life in the park apart from human life. Who would have thought that we’d get an alpaca? [But] we love him dearly because he’s such a little rogue. He’s got a character all of his own.”
They found Alan at a farm in Mount Compass, back in April 2017, when he was six months old. He cost about $500.
A young Alan, pictured, supplied by Ashley.
A fact sheet at the park describes the early days as though through Alan’s eyes: “When I first moved to the tourist park, I was still very small and being bottle-fed three times a day. I slept inside with my human family and especially liked watching Home and Away with them. Once I was old enough and too big to sleep inside, my family made me a special area of my own [an open-air pen] to sleep at night. I love helping my parents in the kitchen.”
Al now spends his days grazing around the park on a 12-metre leash; this is to prevent him from running in front of a vehicle. Ashley says: “We put him in different spots every day, so he gets [contact with] a variety of people and grasses.”
Sometimes Al’s put in busy spots, and other times quieter spaces, to allow him a breather from attention.
If you’re passing by and are keen to approach him, here’s some tips on what he likes:
• Being spoken to softly
• People bending down to his level to talk
• Just being loved and having people near. (A ‘kiss’ entails him touching your nose with his.)
He doesn’t like:
• Being approached from behind
• People yelling at him, or
• Being touched on his head or face.
Ashley also warns people not to feed Al. The alpaca’s given a bowl of nightly ‘treats’, often including sliced apple, pear, cabbage, watermelon and carrot, and seeds. The fact sheet, through Al’s eyes, says too: “Sometimes I get grumpy and may spit at you. I am sorry.”
While it’s generally advised that the herd animals are bought in pairs, his owners make up for this by interacting and playing with him often. (And, of course, dogs are pack animals and people rear those alone.)
Other animals regularly spotted at the park include Bob the border collie, wild echidnas, koalas and ducks. A peacock, dubbed ‘Peter’, also used to visit, however, sadly, he was killed by an off-leash dog from outside the tourist park (though dogs are meant to be kept on leads along the walking trails).
Alan was last shorn a year ago, and Ashley says with a laugh, “When he’s shorn, he’s a different animal. You won’t recognise him. He looks like a skinny rat!”
Softfoot Alpaca Farm
In other things ‘alpaca’, Softfoot Alpaca Farm in Hindmarsh Valley (near Victor Harbor) started farm tours a year-and-a-half ago.
The 240ha property is owned by couple Gary and Sandy Retallick and son Clancy. The family used to own and operate Team Poly Water Tanks. Their farm has 240 alpacas on-site, bred for their high-end fleece. (One of its alpacas, known as ‘Whyte Park Timothy’, sold for a whopping $88,000 earlier this year.) The tours are conducted in all-terrain buggies or farm tractor trailers, and there’s even a sunset tour. The owners are quite the conservationists with the farm also boasting purpose-built enclosures for threatened marsupials, and a koala rehab centre.
The couple chose to breed alpacas because the animals’ soft feet are better for the fragile soil. Another farm highlight is ‘Love River’, built for Sandy by Gary. The labour of love totally recreates the Murray River ecosystem, from its plants to its animals. And, as a 50th wedding anniversary present, Gary added three bridges and a giant golden heart, which is fab for selfies!
The farm attracts travellers from far and wide, with Chinese tourists particularly enamoured by the alpacas. Apparently, this is because the animals have a cult status there after a hoax article about mythical creatures, whose names form obscene puns, went viral. The caonima, literally ‘grass mud horse’, is supposedly a species of alpaca, and the name is similar to a profanity… We, however, just find the fluff-balls adorable!
Above photos supplied by Softfoot.
For more information and all enquiries please visit the Brownhill Creek Tourist Park website. For more on Softfoot Alpaca Tours see their website here.
What: Brownhill Creek Tourist Park & Softfoot Alpaca Tours
When: Both are open 7 days a week (Farm tours need to be booked online in advance)
Where: Tourist park (Brownhill Creek Rd, Mitcham) & farm (594 Sawpit Rd, Hindmarsh Valley)
Who: Everyone – especially animal and nature lovers!
All photos by Carla Caruso for Play & Go Adelaide unless otherwise indicated.
At Play & Go Adelaide we make every effort to provide accurate information to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication. We recommend confirming times, dates and details directly before making any plans as details may be subject to change.
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