09 21/09/2011

Mysterious Giant Armadillo Caught On Camera

Chester Zoo cameras have captured rare images of a giant armadillo - helping conservationists learn more about the mysterious species of which little is known.

The scarcely seen and highly threatened species was pictured as it emerged from a burrow in the wetlands of central Brazil.

Field researchers, supported by Chester Zoo, managed to track down the remarkable animal after spending ten weeks intensively searching the Nhecolândia sub-region of the Brazilian Pantanal.

Biologist Arnaud Desbiez, who runs the Giant Armadillo Project, said: “We simply know nothing about giant armadillos and may lose the species before we can understand its basic natural history and ecological role”.

Hunted for their meat and threatened by habitat loss, the gentle giants are listed as Vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN Red list of Threatened Species.

However the new camera-traps are now being used to help discover more about the species - allowing conservationists to estimate population density; investigate patterns of activity; monitor the use of giant armadillo burrows by other species and learn more about their social and reproductive behaviour.

Giant Armadillo on Camera in Brazil - Chester Zoo

Dr Desbiez added:

“The cameras will offer critical pieces of information for the assessment of the status of giant armadillo populations in Brazil.

“They will help us to acquire a better understanding of the natural history of the species and perhaps understand the ecological reasons why giant armadillos are so rare.

“They will also provide us with exciting data and help us to formulate a baseline of information on giant armadillo ecology and ecosystem function in the Brazilian Pantantal.”

The Pantanal is the world’s largest continuous freshwater wetland, spanning Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay.

Although giant armadillos range over much of South America almost nothing is known about them and, due to their secretive behaviour and low population densities, are very rarely seen.

Giant Armadillo in Brazil - Chester Zoo

Dr Desbiez said:

“Laying my eyes upon this incredible species, I am overcome by a feeling of responsibility to protect and conserve this living fossil. I look forward to using results from our work to introduce Brazilians and the rest of the world to this unknown species which I think symbolizes biodiversity at its very best.”

Learn more about Chester Zoo’s conservation work in the UK and across the world and discover how you can help by visiting www.actforwildlife.org.uk