To celebrate World Armadillo Day on Sunday 13 August, we’re excited to share a story from the depths of Brazil!

Ashleigh Marshall, Assistant Team Manager for Visitor Engagement here at Chester Zoo, visited the State of Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil to spend time with our project partner, ICAS – the Wild Animal Conservation Institute (Instituto de Conservaçao de Animais Silvestres in Portuguese) – and learn more about their efforts to protect the giant armadillo.

Established in 2010, the Giant Armadillo Conservation Program has become the first long-term ecological study of this highly threatened and little-known species. The project has pioneered research into giant armadillos, and promoted conservation awareness through education and outreach.

This is Ash’s story of her visit there…

“After spending some time in the state capital, Campo Grande, presenting to student teachers and meeting as many of the ICAS team as possible, on Saturday 17 June we headed out to learn about the The Canastras e Colmeias (Armadillos and Beehives) project, which was created in 2015 to promote peaceful coexistence between beekeepers and giant armadillos. I was taken to meet Adriano Adames, one of the partner beekeepers at his smallholding. The weather was bright and sunny after some unusually cold temperatures, even for winter in Brazil, which really highlighted the beauty of where Adriano lives, just outside of the city, and where he keeps many of his hives, as well as his honey business.”

Ashleigh Marshall dressed in a yellow beekeeping outfit, holding part of a beehive swarming with bees
Ash trying her hand at beekeeping in Brazil

“Adriano’s passion about the natural world and giving back to nature was evident from the moment we met. He’s been a beekeeper for more than 30 years and got involved with the project to help with the conservation of giant armadillos, as well as training beekeepers and working towards giant armadillo-friendly honey certification.

“Seeing Adriano and his children shows how vital these projects are. Not only for protecting amazing species like giant armadillos, but also for engaging and empowering local people to get involved in conservation in their own way.”

Ashleigh Marshall, Assistant Team Manager for Visitor Engagement

“Adriano told us stories of how armadillos had damaged his own beehives. But despite these experiences, he was still incredibly motivated to help protect these unique animals. In fact, to further help local beekeepers, he’d also recently started a queen bee breeding project, wherein he’s donating new queens to beekeepers to help increase the productivity of their hives. His plan is to increase their productivity to help reduce conflict with aiant armadillos. Meeting Adriano was a privilege, and really hit home with me the importance of the work that ICAS does, as well as the support that Chester Zoo provides. Seeing Adriano and his children, who are equally as passionate about beekeeping, shows how vital these projects are. Not only for protecting amazing species like giant armadillos, but also for engaging and empowering local people to get involved in conservation in their own way.”

Camera trap footage of a giant armadillo in Brazil

“Late in the evening some of the ICAS team returned from the Pantanal, muddy, tired and ready for a rest after 15 days of monitoring giant armadillos in wet and wintery conditions. Head veterinarian Danilo Kluyber and biologist Gabriel Massocato are using GPS trackers and camera traps to discover the secret world of giant armadillos in the Pantanal. Using these latest scientific methods, they can learn intimate details about the lives of these animals, including their breeding behaviours, activity levels and how the females interact with their pups. They also have newer projects monitoring giant armadillos in both the Atlantic Forest and Cerrado habitats.

“After a well-deserved rest and time to clean up, Gabriel returned to the “ICAS house” in Campo Grande, where I was staying with some of the team. Gabriel is incredibly charismatic and knowledgeable when it comes to the project, and it was fascinating to hear all about the most recent trip to the Pantanal, as well as seeing how clearly passionate he is about his work. In addition to monitoring the giant armadillos, Gabriel is working with local residents to set up a community fire brigade and provide equipment to help protect the Pantanal from forest fires. Gabriel recently won a Future for Nature award for his amazing work and will be using the prize money to contribute to new initiatives for monitoring and protecting aiant armadillos in the Cerrado, as well as continued field visits to contribute to the conservation of these amazing animals.”

“I will be continuing to work the ICAS team, specifically with education professional Andréia Nasser Figueiredo, in their education work, both assisting ICAS with their programmes and engaging with the public in the UK about these important projects. Being part of such a well-established conservation project that’s working hands-on with amazing species and with passionate communities is incredibly exciting, not to mention having the opportunity to work alongside such talented and knowledgeable people.”


Discover how we’re helping save nature’s giants with ICAS out in Brazil.