12 04/12/2017

Chester Zoo partners release new paper

Giant Armadillo Conservation Program

  • Latin America

Our field partners at the Giant Armadillo Conservation Program have just published a new paper on the presence and importance of giant armadillos in the largest protected area in the Eastern Mato Grosso do Sul of Brazil.

Published in Edentata, the journal and newsletter of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission Anteater, Sloth and Armadillo Specialist Group, the study highlights the important performance the giant armadillo plays in habitat quality for a large number of species in the largest protected area in the eastern Mato Grosso do Sul state, Brazil.

Using camera traps and interviews with local communities that used to live in the area, Gabriel Massocato, project biologist at the Giant Armadillo Conservation Program, and Dr Arnaud Desbiez, founder of the program, monitored the rare mammal species in the reserve. The duo of researchers also conducted some transect surveys looking for clues, such as feeding burrows, indicating the presence of armadillos.

Armadillo caught on camera trap
Photo credit: Giant Armadillo Conservation Program

Co-author of the paper, Dr Desbiez, explains:

The objective of this work was to use camera traps to record the presence of giant armadillos in the largest protected area in the eastern Mato Grosso do Sul state, Brazil, as well as to document the importance of the species as an ecosystem engineer.

A total of 30 burrows were found and attributed to giant armadillos among which 16 were classified as sleeping burrows, eight as resting burrows and six as feeding burrows. The camera trap survey resulted in 34,938 photos resulting in 11 giant armadillo sightings mostly captured during the night.

Massocato and Desbiez recorded three individuals, two adult females and one sub-adult female, inside the Reserva Cisalpina. In addition to these giant armadillos, the team also identified a total of 35 vertebrate species from the camera trap images using giant armadillo burrows.

Massocato putting a camera trap in place
Massocato putting a camera trap in place. Credit: Giant Armadillo Conservation Program

The study confirms the presence of giant armadillos in the Reserva Cisalpina and provides evidences that the individuals present there are breeding. It also demonstrates the importance of the rare species as an ecosystem engineer with its burrows being used by various other mammal species such as white-eared opossums, giant anteaters and the six-banded armadillos.

Dr Desbiez continues:

The preservation of this reserve is fundamental for the conservation of giant armadillos along the Paraná River tri-national BiodiverĀ­sity Corridor, as this is the only area in the Brazilian territory within this corridor in which giant armadillos has been recorded.

This study had a strong impact on the reserve which has since then selected the giant armadillo as its symbol and flagship species. This is a species that they did not even know they had a few years ago and it is now their symbol, and their pride and joy!

Presence and importance of giant armadillos, Priodontes maximus (Kerr, 1792), in the largest protected area in the Eastern Mato Grosso do Sul State, Brazil

Authors: Massocato, G., F. and Desbiez, A., L., J. 2017. Presence and importance of giant armadillos, Priodontes maximus (Kerr, 1792), in the largest protected area in the Eastern Mato Grosso du Sul State, Brazil. Edentata, 18.

Abstract: The giant armadillo, Priodontes maximus, is one of the rarest South American mammal species. Its length may reach up to 150 cm and it can weigh up to 50 kg. The species is still found in some regions of the Cerrado, Amazon, Pantanal, and Atlantic Forest but few studies have been dedicated to the species or have evaluated the exact current occurrence of the species and its role in ecosystem maintenance. We used camera traps to record the presence of P. maximus in the largest protected area in the eastern Mato Grosso do Sul state, Brazil, and documented the important role of the species as an ecosystem engineer. Thirty-five vertebrate species were registered using its burrows in the Cisalpina Reserve, highlighting the important performance the giant armadillo plays in habitat quality for a large number of species. The preservation of this reserve is fundamental for the conservation of P. maximus along the Paraná River tri-national Biodiversity Corridor, as this is the only area in the Brazilian territory within this corridor in which the species has been recorded.