Conservation Field Grant uncovers mysteries of the Giant Armadillo

Conservation Field Grant uncovers mysteries of the Giant Armadillo

Giant Armadillo’s are HUGE stars!

 The Giant Armadillo is one of the least known armadillo species and the Giant Armadillo Project team has been working hard with support from a Taronga Field Conservation Grant to uncover the life history of this shy animal.The team has been monitoring one baby armadillo (named ‘Alex’) since its birth 17 months ago. Two camera trap pictures of ‘Alex’ have been selected by the BBC Wildlife Camera-trap Photo of the Year 2014. One picture was commended in the Rare species category and the other one was a runner up in the new Behaviour category. Check the pictures out here!   

 The images from the camera traps are not just a great way of promoting this armadillo, but they are also a source of learning about its behaviour. For example, based on research on other armadillo species, it was believed that young Giant Armadillos disperse from their mothers at 6 weeks of age. But it has been 17 months now since Alex was born and he continues interacting and sharing his mother’s territory.

Although he forages alone, he uses burrows that she digs and only recently began digging a few burrows. This new information is extremely important and demonstrates how rare, and how much care each baby Giant Armadillo requires. Females therefore produce very few young and each animal is extremely precious. This might explain why Giant Armadillos have gone locally extinct in so many areas throughout their range. Too few young are born and the removal of any individual has huge consequences on the population.

Taronga Zoo has supported this project through the Taronga Conservation Field Grants program, with Taronga keeper, Justine Powell travelling to the Brazillian Pantanal in 2013 as part of the project researching Giant Armadillos. 

By Dr Rebecca Spindler and Monique Van Sluys