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Giant Armadillo

SAVE THEM ALL: The Giant Armadillo is Today’s Endangered All-Star, one of the most fascinating and unusual animals of the South American rainforest and grassland ecosystems. Like other armadillos, the giant is covered in bony plates but has 80-100 teeth, more than any other mammal. In unique tropical forest and grassland habitats east of the Andes, it lives among millions of termite mounds, using its enormous front digging claw to excavate insects. Hunted by indigenous people for meat and for the pet trade, its populations have been reduced by 30-50% in the last few decades. Its habitat has also been severely eroded by conversion to agriculture. In 2005, I was fortunate to be with a team of biologists led by Leandro Silveira and Anah Tereza de Almeida Jácomo: During a night’s survey of Emas National Park, we came across a giant armadillo, the first adult female to be caught by scientists. The animal was netted, transported back to the research site, and fitted with a radio-tracking device attached to its carapace. The following night, after the armadillo recovered from anesthesia, it slipped out of its box and returned to the wilds of Emas. The research represents one of the few projects dedicated to learning more about this mysterious species, which remains understudied and underprotected.
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