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Masters of all they survey: These working llamas escort visitors on hikes in Alaska. Photo by Linda Neuchterlein of Alaska Llamas and Outdoors.

Llama owners are uniting to overturn a ban by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on the animals in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Why it matters: Llamas are increasingly popular as hiking companions — they'll carry gear uncomplainingly, with a calm and contemplative gaze — and owners say the move could have broad-reaching implications on the animals' use in the lower 48.

Driving the news: As of August 31, Fish & Wildlife prohibited "domestic sheep, goat, and camelid pack animals on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge," arguing they pose a disease threat to Dall's sheep, which are native to the Alaska mountains.

  • Llama owners protested and filed a lawsuit in D.C. Circuit Court, saying the move was based on bad science.
  • They've been raising money through a GoFundMe called the Llama Defense Fund.
  • A major concern is that Fish & Wildlife — which issued a "no comment" to Axios on the matter — will try to widen the ban, imposing economic hardship on the growing number of people who rent pack llamas to wildlife lovers.

What they're saying: "The idea was to try to build a bit of a war chest, because if they're banning them in Alaska and it holds — and hopefully it doesn't —  who's to say it's not going to spread to other states and parks?" said Paige McGrath, who helped organize the GoFundMe.

  • McGrath — who raises champion llamas at Lower Sherwood Farm in Charlottesville, Va. — offers nature walks with herd members like Tucamon, Chewy, Gryffindor and Teriyaki.
  • "A lot of us do llama hiking on a commercial level, and that's a big threat to us, to have all of a sudden have some doors closed on us where we can't take our animals," she tells Axios.

Barb Baker of the Greater Appalachian Llama and Alpaca Association — which is a plaintiff in the lawsuit — says Fish & Wildlife's concern about llamas is based on "old science" that's been debunked by top camelid veterinarians.

  • She and other llama owners have been amassing evidence on a website.

What's next: The two sides have a court-mandated schedule of meetings in April.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

IPO market holds firm amid stock market tumult

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The IPO market is doing its best Alfred E. Neuman impression so far this week, refusing to entertain everyone else's worries.

The big picture: Both the Dow and S&P 500 fell nearly 2% yesterday, as investors tried to measure the fallout of Chinese construction giant Evergrande defaulting on its $300 billion in liabilities.

3 hours ago - World

Sudanese government says it put down coup attempt

Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok (L) and Sovereign Council Chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. Photo: Ashraf Shazly/AFP via Getty

The Sudanese government announced on Tuesday morning that its military and security services had foiled an attempted coup from within the country’s armed forces.

Why it matters: The apparent coup attempt comes with Sudan’s transitional government — in which power is shared between civilians and generals — facing crises on several fronts two years after dictator Omar al-Bashir was toppled in a popular uprising.

3 hours ago - Health

Johnson & Johnson says booster shot increases efficacy of COVID vaccine

Syringes and a vial of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in French Polynesia on Sept. 8. Photo: Jerome Brouillet/AFP via Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson said in a press release Tuesday a global study showed that the protection offered by its coronavirus vaccine was strengthened by a booster shot.

Why it matters: While J&J has not formally applied for authorization to offer booster shots to the general public, it said it has shared the results of the study with the Food and Drug Administration and plans to share it with the World Health Organization and other health regulators.