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Brazil’s Giant Armadillo

Giant Armadillo

Brazil’s Giant Armadillo

The nine-banded armadillo may be designated as the Texas State mammal but it seems not everything is bigger in Texas, at least not in the case of armadillos. The giant armadillo of South America is the largest of the armadillo species and can reach up to four feet in length and 110 pounds. Although giant armadillos range over much of South America almost nothing is known about them. Apparently it is not as simple to find a 110 pound armadillo that sleeps underground and only moves about late at night.

In 2013, our partners in Brazil’s Pantanal initiated a program to learn more about this threatened species: how it uses its habitat, interacts with other wildlife of the region, and how to protect them across their range. Capturing giant armadillos for radio tracking is never easy and the project can go months without a single capture, despite our constant expeditions. Other activities include monitoring of burrows through camera traps, collection of fecal samples, presentations to visitors to the ranch outreach, visits to neighboring ranches, and educational activities with local schools.

One of the great discoveries of the project was the role of giant armadillos as ecosystem engineers (in this case an animal that can create or modify a habitat). Research in the Brazilian Pantanal show that giant armadillo burrows are an important shelter to over 25 species, ranging from tiny lizards to large collared peccaries. Giant armadillo burrows offer an important refuge from the extreme heat (temperature in the deep burrow is a constant 75°F). This is truly a region where many types of wildlife are connected, and due to these interactions the project is now looking closer at other species of armadillos and anteaters as it relates to use of food sources, territory sizes, and parasite and disease transmission.

You can join us here at the Houston Zoo on March 5th for our Call of the Wild Speaker Series to hear the project’s story directly from Giant Armadillo researcher, Arnaud Desbiez. This free event begins at 6:30pm and you may RSVP for tickets.

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The Zoo is saving Giant armadillos in the wild by:

  • Assisting by providing promotional and educational materials for their outreach initiatives
  • Providing a salary for a local Brazilian biologist employee to assist with research and conservation

You can save Giant armadillos in the wild by:

  • Being careful when you buy wood products.  Some furniture and other items are made with wood from Central and South America.  Buy refurbished, antique or locally sourced wood products to avoid supporting wood imports. Maple, Oak, or Pine are usually better choices.
  • Visiting the Zoo. Every time you visit the Zoo a portion of your admission or membership goes to saving animals in the wild.

Donate now to help animals in the wild:

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New Perspectives: Sabinga, our Kenyan Intern

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Sabinga is from Kenya, Africa and has spent the last 8 years committing his life to protecting elephants employed at an organization called Save the Elephants.  Save the Elephants has been a leading conservation and research project for over 20 years and the Houston Zoo has partnered with them to enhance their conservation efforts.

Sabinga came to Houston to participate in the Community College Initiative Program (CCIP) at the Houston Community College for a Geographical Information Systems course.  He connected with the Zoo when he arrived in Houston and we quickly made a space for him on our internship team.  “Houston Zoo is the first zoo I have ever been (my first time in the zoo), although I had heard of a Zoo before, what I have learned at the Houston Zoo was beyond my thinking and expectation of the zoo.”

You can experience the Houston Zoo through Sabinga’s eyes by following his blog series! Last month he went out to collect marine debris and wrote about how similar he felt it was to the anti-poaching efforts he does in Kenya.  He saw that both actions remove materials that can be lethal to animals.  Read more about his adventures on the Zoo blogs:

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Travel with Us

Argentina’s Northern Patagonia and Peninsula Valdes
November 15 – 22, 2015

We will introduce you to elephant seals, whales, sea lions, penguins and many other species while visiting with the Marine Wildlife and Ocean Health conservation programs working directly with the Houston Zoo.

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Yellowstone Bear, Wolf, and Elk in the Fall
September 7 – 11, 2015

This trip offers the best wolf and bear viewing opportunities in the country, and we take care of all of the details!

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Polar Bears of Churchill, Manitoba
November 5 – 10, 2015

In a six-day adventure, experience extraordinary polar bear viewing opportunities as well as a broad introduction to life in the North.

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Don’t miss out on this opportunity! Check out the full itinerary for this unique adventure and contact us at conservation@houstonzoo.org to sign up!

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Upcoming Events

Brasil Giant Armadillo

Dr. Arnaud Desbiez, Giant Armadillo Researcher
Thursday, March 5, 2015

Ever heard of a Giant Armadillo? Come and hear about what is being done to save this incredible species from extinction.

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Painted-Dogs

Peter Blinston, African Painted Dog Researcher
Friday, April 17, 2015

An Evening of Wine and Wild Stories of African Painted Dogs

African Painted Dog researcher Peter Blinston fell in love with these unique dogs while watching documentaries growing up in his native England. He has been working to protect painted dogs for twelve years now and serves as Managing Director for Painted Dog Conservation.

Painted Dog Conservation is based in Zimbabwe and works to save the African painted dogs from extinction through anti-poaching units, rehabilitation of injured dogs, re-introduction of these dogs into the wild, monitoring of various packs, and education of local communities.

Join us for an intimate evening of wine and stories of protecting the endangered African Painted Dogs in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.

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$30 Members. $35 Non-members. All sales final.


What’s New

Houston’s Gorilla Graffiti

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The Houston Zoo is saving wildlife and asking our community to join us.  Gorillas are coming to the Zoo in May and we have been supporting efforts to protect them in the wild for over 5 years.  Since we began our support we have seen the population increase by 100 in the wild!  Successes like this are helping define our existence.  The Zoo is so excited to celebrate new identity and we are doing what we can to get the word out.

We have teamed up with some amazing street artists to help us reveal and celebrate our Zoo and new gorilla residents.  The artists are saving animals in the wild as they create their beautiful murals; one artist uses recycled paint for all of her murals! Join us in saving wildlife by visiting the Zoo, as every time you go through the gates you contribute efforts to protect animals in the wild!

Meet the Artists!

Artist Anat Ronen and Her Recycled Paint


Houston Zoo Saving Crabs, Fish, and even a Goose!

This past Saturday, February 21,  a group of Houston Zoo staff and other community volunteers got together at Fort Anahuac Park for the annual Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF) Abandoned Crab Trap Removal.

Not only did we rescue a snow goose (there are always surprises at any event!), we also saved about a dozen blue crabs and a mullet from the traps. And by the end of the day, we removed 147 abandoned crab traps from the bay!

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Why did we get together for this event, you ask? Sometimes crab traps are abandoned in the bay – due to the changing tides or simply forgotten. When left in the waters, they can unintentionally harm aquatic species such as crabs, turtles, birds and even river otters. Every year, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department closes crabbing in Texas waters for a 10-day period, in which volunteers are allowed to remove these littered traps. Since 2002, volunteers have recovered nearly 28,000 traps!

Check out the entire blog post, with more photos:

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Every time you visit the Zoo, you help save animals in the wild.

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If you have any questions about our programs and partners, or would like any additional information, email us at conservation@houstonzoo.org .