From the Andes to the Apennines: rise and fall of a free-ranging population of feral llamas.
Since 2016, a feral population of llama Lama glama has been present in Central Italy after escaping from a zoological garden and starting to reproduce. We updated demographic status and distribution of this population and investigated societal perception towards the llama presence and management in the area through a standard questionnaire. Field data were collected through direct (transects traveled by car and on foot) and indirect (newspapers, social networks and online platforms) research. The feral population appears to be declining. In July 2020, the population was represented by three individuals (one male and two females), identified also through photoidentification, most likely located within a 40-hectare area. The majority of citizens are aware of the presence of feral llamas and show a positive attitude toward them and a negative one toward management actions. The case of feral llamas in Italy is an evident example of unsafe management of a species which should have kept in a zoo and which, once set free, was able to catalyze the attention of the general public. The decline of this population limits the need of drastic management actions that, given the appreciation expressed by people and press toward these animals, would have been at risk of conflict with the public opinion. Removal action should be rapidly taken, i.e., before any demographic rebound and before the population becomes a stable feature of the local landscape.