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‘My llama can read minds,’ says owner

11:00 12 February 2016

Ollie the mind-reading Llama and his owner, Maggie Jee of Peak Hill Llamas. Ref shs 05-16AW 8687. Picture: Alex Walton

Ollie the mind-reading Llama and his owner, Maggie Jee of Peak Hill Llamas. Ref shs 05-16AW 8687. Picture: Alex Walton

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Sidmouth animal’s strange powers of prediction

Ollie the mind-reading Llama and his owner, Maggie Jee of Peak Hill Llamas. Ref shs 05-16AW 8657. Picture: Alex WaltonOllie the mind-reading Llama and his owner, Maggie Jee of Peak Hill Llamas. Ref shs 05-16AW 8657. Picture: Alex Walton

A llama’s uncanny powers of prediction have got his owner thinking that he can read her mind.

Maggie Jee trained woolly pal Ollie to recognise colours and pick the right stick when she called one out.

This was already no mean feat for the easily distracted animal - but then something strange happened.

“We noticed Ollie was heading for the right colour before I even said it,” said Maggie, who has run Peak Hill Llamas since 2005.

“I decided I wouldn’t say the colour, just think it – and he still got every single one right.

“He can read minds!”

Maggie used clicker training, a form of positive reinforcement, to teach Ollie – full name Ollantay – to recognise colours. He has red, blue and yellow in the bag and now they are working on a fourth, green.

And the 11-year-old llama is equally adept at picking sequences of colours, again getting them right every time.

Maggie’s partner, Paul, was sceptical. When he said Ollie could have been reacting to her facial expressions, Maggie faced away as she thought of the colour.

“He still got them right,” said the 54-year-old. “Llamas are quite easily distracted. If he doesn’t lose concentration, he seems to get it right pretty much every time.

“He’s obviously highly talented!”

Another of Ollie’s talents is archaeology, which Lower Brook Meadow resident Maggie taught him when they got involved in a heritage project for the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

She taught him to recognise an axe head – she was lent a 250,000-year-old one from Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum, but now uses a much less-valuable piece of flint – a pot and a jar, although she has not tested his apparent telepathic skills on these yet.

The Jees moved to Sidmouth from Paul’s native Guernsey, where Maggie ran an attraction called Petland.

Now all of her llamas are rescue animals. She picked up Ollie when he was two from a woman who was emigrating to New Zealand.

He is the stand-out of the nine-strong herd, but she is also suspicious of Golly – who seems to have learned to recognise colours all by himself.

The animals are well-known for their appearances at Rotary Club events and as stand-ins for camels in Exeter Cathedral’s nativity.

Maggie also employs them in llama-assisted therapy – a part of the business she is eager to develop into a community interest company.

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