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Staff at Tostock Animal Parks near Bury St Edmunds build potential first ever llama walking frame



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A llama which has lost the use of its legs can still get around thanks to the ingenuity of its owner.

Olivia Boland, who runs Tostock Animal Parks, and her team have built what she thinks is the world’s the first ever llama walking frame for five-year-old Imogene, who has lost the ability to walk.

Imogene was born at the farm, near Bury St Edmunds, and was able to walk and run as normal, but on May 29 Imogene was unable to stand up to eat, which sent alarm bells ringing.

Olivia said: “Four of us tried to lift her up to walk and she did walk but then when we let her go her back legs just went and she sat down again.

“We called the vet out and he gave us five syringes of anti-inflammatory pain killers and he said if that doesn’t work we’ll put her down.”

The vet believes that Imogene has a deformity of the spine which is slightly curved and not straight as it should be and that something has affected the nerves, causing the paralysis.

Staff at Tostock Animal Parks have built possibly the first ever llama walking frame. Picture: Mark Westley
Staff at Tostock Animal Parks have built possibly the first ever llama walking frame. Picture: Mark Westley
Imogene lost the ability to walk suddenly. Picture: Mark Westley
Imogene lost the ability to walk suddenly. Picture: Mark Westley

Although Imogene has problems with her legs, she was still eating and drinking as normal and Olivia could not bring herself to put an otherwise healthy animal down, so she embarked on a mission to get the llama walking again.

The vet told her that surgery was not an option because the spine was already deformed, so Olivia found an animal osteopath expert to try a laser treatment which proved to be quite effective. However, for it to be the most effective, Imogene would need to walk regularly to strengthen her muscles.

Imogene needs the help of Olivia or volunteers to walk in the frame. Picture: Mark Westley
Imogene needs the help of Olivia or volunteers to walk in the frame. Picture: Mark Westley

It was then that volunteer Chris Sewell engineered a walking frame out of old hurdle gates and four wheels so the llama can walk 30 minutes a day with the aid of Olivia and volunteers to pull the walker along.

It is hoped that one day Imogene will be able to walk in the walker without the aid of people.

The frame is made out of old hurdle gates. Picture: Mark Westley
The frame is made out of old hurdle gates. Picture: Mark Westley

For Olivia, putting Imogene to sleep was never an option.

“I cannot put her down because if she’s ready to go then we put her down,” she said. “But when she looks at you, she’s got big eyes. If we don’t try, we’ll never know.”

Imogene needs to walk at least 30 minutes a day. Picture: Mark Westley
Imogene needs to walk at least 30 minutes a day. Picture: Mark Westley
Olivia is now looking for moveable wheels for the front. Picture: Mark Westley
Olivia is now looking for moveable wheels for the front. Picture: Mark Westley

After suggestions on social media, the team are now trying to source steerable wheels for the front so Imogene can turn easier.