Conserving one of South America´s least known mammals with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

The giant armadillo is the largest of the armadillo species, has a fascinating evolutionary history, exhibits distinctive adaptations, is rare, easily becoming locally extinct and plays an important role in the ecosystem by providing thermal refuges to other species.

Project leader, Dr Arnaud Desbiez, has documented in a preliminary study that over 10 species of mammals using their burrows (including collared peccaries, lesser anteater, ocelots, and other armadillo species). The giant armadillo is currently classified as Vulnerable, but due to its cryptic behaviour and low population densities, this animal is very rarely seen and almost nothing is known of their biology, and its true status is still unclear.

This project aims to establish the first long-term ecological study of giant armadillos in the Brazilian Pantanal wetland. The main goal is to investigate the ecology and biology of the species and understand its function in the ecosystem using radio transmitters, camera traps, burrow surveys, resource monitoring, resource mapping and interviews. This information will be the starting point for conservation action including: reassessment of the species IUCN/SSC red list status and promoting giant armadillos as ambassadors for biodiversity and habitat conservation in targeted campaigns.

Arnaud Desbiez has dedicated his life to discovering and protecting Brazilian wildlife and their habitats. Arnaud is a driving force in the IUCNs Conservation Breeding Specialist Group and IPE and is the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Regional Conservation and Research Coordinator for Latin America. The RZSS promotes the conservation of animal species and wild places, through captive breeding, environmental education and scientific research.

What can you do? Lack of knowledge is a primary barrier to species conservation all over the world. More and more we rely on the community to help with our wide ranging long term science and conservation projects. Contact local conservation groups to find out what they are doing and get involved. For example join Taronga's bush care group. Or consider speaking out about an issue close to you – tell local, state and federal or international authorities that you support action to conserve wildlife and their habitats.

Find out about what positive actions you can take to help wildlife here.