Byline: David Williamson Senedd Correspondent
THEY'RE furry, smelly and they spit a lot.
But despite their rather suspect personal hygiene, llamas and their close relative, the alpaca, have so far lived their lives largely beneath the radar of the National Assembly.
Since the National Assembly was established in 1999, the proportion of its time devoted to discussing the fate of Wales' 240-strong llama population has been fairly insignificant.
But that changed after it emerged animal health inspectors lacked the power to enter premises to test for TB - something commonly done for cattle.
A brief debate in the chamber this week, and that small loophole was fixed - much to the delight of Wales' breeders.
The legislation means that inspectors have the freedom to inspect animals for TB which they have previously had for cattle.
The decision was welcomed by Liz Ford, who breeds llamas at her farm in Whitland, Pembrokeshire.
She has 11 llamas but lost approximately half her herd to TB.
She said: "They are wonderful animals and anything the Welsh Assembly can do to keep our herds healthy is very much welcomed, I am sure, by the owners in Wales."
The British Llama Society has around 120 animals registered in Wales but the actual number of llamas in Wales is thought to be double this figure.
Camels are very rare in Wales but approximately 500 alpacas have been registered with the British Alpaca Society.
Peter Bourne, who runs Bremia Farms of Tregaron, has around 100 llamas.
He gave his backing to the new powers.
Hesaid: "Wesupport it. Myfarm is the largest llama farm in Wales - I've quite a vested stake in this."
Mr Bourne also supports the Assembly Government's proposals for a targeted cull of badgers as part of efforts to eradicate TB.
He said: "I'm a big animal person and I'm Green-orientated and I hate to see any animals being done-in, but I think if you are going to get TB under control you really have no choice."
Mr Bourne has bred llamas for two decades and said the animals were popular in Wales for trekking and guarding sheep from foxes.
He said: "They are also used by a number of people as guard animals with sheep, because they are very, very aggressive to any sort of canine.
"Upin Snowdonia they are used quite a lot because they are much better than horses because they have flat pads and don't tear up the ground. …