You Can Protect Wildlife With a Quick Call

The Zoo is here to show everyone how they can help animals in the wild. We partner with people and organizations working to save the wild counterparts of the animals we have here at the Zoo and enhance many of their creative forms of protection efforts in their own communities.

Painted DogsA few months ago, our wildlife conservation partners at Painted Dog Conservation(PDC) in Zimbabwe, Africa informed us that they were excited about having a new number that local community members could call if they see poaching/illegal hunting activity or spot painted dogs in the wild, but were struggling to get this number out for their public’s use. Fortunately, we have had some experience locally with spreading the word about phone numbers public can call to get help for wildlife. Wildlife saving phone numbers or hotlines are a powerful wildlife protection tool that significantly increases the amount of eyes watching and protecting wildlife.




The Houston Zoo helps local sea turtle conservation partners publicize the hotline for stranded and injured sea turtles along the Texas coast. Our talented graphics team created attractive stickers for distribution to our local public to put on their cars and for fishermen to put on their tackle boxes.  The goal was to have the number accessible when people needed it. We shared this story with PDC, and they loved the idea!

Sticker designer, Evelyn Lozano


Our design team went to work on a graphically appealing wildlife saving hotline sticker for our communities in Zimbabwe. Our designer was challenged with the task of including three the different local African languages on the stickers but managed to create a clear and beautiful product that PDC is proud to pass out to their local communities. This sticker has increased the wildlife saving pride in the area and empowered more people to join in the race to save painted dogs and other animals from extinction.


You can save local wildlife by:

  • Calling 1-866- TURTLE-5 (1-866-887-8585) if you see a stranded or injured sea turtle.
  • Reporting local wildlife sightings and encounters here in Houston.
  •  “Like” the Texas Parks and Wildlife Urban Wildlife Facebook page and you can send photos or make comments about your own wildlife experiences here.


Houstonians are Saving Rhinos in the Wild

Standing SophiephotoA young Houstonian is doing all she can to save her favorite animals in the wild.  Sophie held a bake sale in her local Houston neighborhood and this was the invitation that was sent out last month.

Well, I love rhinos (among other zoo animals)! And I just discovered that I love baking! Combine those two, and what do you get? A bake sale for rhinos (and other zoo animals)!
Come over to my house to enjoy Sophie’s Cookie Bar, featuring my favorite recipes, including:
Chocolate Mint, Peanut Butter Chunk, and my special Leslie Chip cookies (milk chocolate, white chocolate, butterscotch, and chocolate filled with caramel chips).  All proceeds will benefit the Houston Zoo’s conservation efforts!”


Sophie’s Bake Sale was a huge success and she raised $1,033 to save animals in the wild! She also sold the Zoo’s conservation bracelets along with her delicious cookies.

Sophie moneyphoto
Sophie has been raising funds and awareness for rhinos for the past few years. She designed her own special rhino shirt and continues to recruit everyone she can to join her in her quest to protect rhinos from extinction.

Standing sophiebackphoto


Thank you, Sophie and supporters of the bake sale! thThanks to Houston Zoo friends like Sophie, last year we funded a major conservation effort to reintroduce 20 black rhinos into the wild. Remember, just coming through the gates of the Zoo is saving animals in the wild. A portion of every Zoo admission ticket goes straight to helping animals in the wild!


Houston Zoo Guests are Helping to Save Sharks in the Wild

Whitespotted Bamboo Shark Baby-0002-8227 (1)
Baby bamboo shark hatched at the Houston Zoo last year

When visiting the Zoo, you may see our sharks, rays and sea turtles. The ocean is close to Houston’s heart with the Gulf of Mexico just down the road. Keeping the ocean healthy is a high priority to the Houston Zoo and sharks do just that.  This misunderstood species works hard to keep a healthy balance in our oceans. The Houston Zoos and all of our guests support marine wildlife organization, Mar Alliance, based in Central America. Mar Alliance is doing great work for big fish like sharks and other wildlife in the sea. We know that local involvement and employment is critical for the
success of any long-term conservation effort. We require all of our conservation partners to be working towards local ownership and management of all the conservation and research programs.

Mar Alliance staff tagging shark

Mar Alliance hires local people to carry out monitoring and awareness efforts in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. Houston Zoo staff recently visited the Mar Alliance in Belize and assisted with their marine wildlife protection efforts. We worked along side their local fisherman staff. The fishers have a vast understanding of the ocean and it greatly enhances the research and conservation efforts. All of the local fisherman have grown up by the sea and began free diving for conch and lobster to support their families at a very young age. They can free dive up to 100 feet!


In the past, local fishermen have been taught by previous generations to have a great fear and dislike of sharks. They spoke to us about seeing hammerheads and other species while free diving when they were young, and being very afraid. The fishermen that have joined the Mar Alliance team have had their perception of sharks transformed. The conservation and research activities have guided them to develop a great understanding of the sharks behavior and a deep respect their role in the health of the ocean. Mar Alliance protection efforts include swimming with sharks to monitor, capture and tag them. These fishermen have become the best advocates for sharks and are influencing a lot of change in their communities to protect them.

Local Mar Alliance staff with sharks

You can protect sharks in your everyday life by eating seafood that is responsibly caught. Even though they are not the target, countless sharks are killed when fishing is not done properly. Download Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch consumer guide to learn which seafood options are best choices or good alternatives. The app is available from the Apple Store or Google Play to help you identify shark and ocean-safe seafood.

Your visit to the Zoo helps save sharks in the wild. The Zoo supports over 25 wildlife conservation projects in 10 countries around the world and your admission ticket strengthens that support.

Conservation All the Way from Central America

The Houston Zoo is saving wildlife around the world.  We collaborate with people working in the wild to protect the counterparts of the animals we have at the Houston Zoo.  We have great admiration for our sharks, rays and turtles that live in our aquarium and we are passionate  about keeping these species safe in the wild.  To that end, we provide funds and enhancement for a conservation organization in Central America called the Mar Alliance.  They are committed to ensuring the protection of marine animals through research, education and conservation efforts.


Last year our Zoo staff provided photo cataloging training and fundraising and planning guidance to enhance the Mar Alliance conservation efforts.  This year Mar Alliance expressed a need for clearer and more effective marine conservation messaging through video.  The marine wildlife conservation community struggles with connecting public to their protection efforts.  Effective video is critical to inspire conservation action and support for ocean health. Our Houston Zoo videographer has a lot of experience with effective wildlife saving messaging so he assisted Mar Alliance with a manual and offered his expertise for a workshop in Belize for marine conservation organizations in the area.


Conservationists from Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Mexico attended and gained a deeper understanding of effective shooting, storytelling and editing techniques.   Participants were from marine wildlife research, law enforcement, environmental education, community capacity building and rehabilitation.


The workshop started with a full day of classroom work on day 1 and day 2 consisted of a field trip to Shark and Ray alley and other amazing snorkeling sights in Belize to collect footage.   Over the following 2 days they applied their newly acquired skills and worked with the Zoo’s videographer to create short, quality conservation videos.


This workshop empowered and strengthened people from 9 different conservation organizations in Central America.  It provided new connections and built networks to enhance future marine conservation efforts.  The Houston Zoo believes that long-term conservation is a collective task and is proud to partner with conservation organizations like Mar Alliance who strive to encourage collaboration within the wildlife conservation community.


Every time you come and visit our sharks, rays and turtles at the Zoo you help us support saving their counterparts in the wild.  A portion of your admission or membership goes to wildlife saving efforts like these, so thank you Houston!

Traveling to See Animals in the Wild With the Houston Zoo

The Houston Zoo Wildlife Conservation Program’s goal is to protect animals by connecting people to nature.  Our travel program encourages experiences in nature that foster care for the natural world and empower individuals to take action to save wildlife. Our Wildlife Conservation Program offers various opportunities to experience the wild with wildlife professionals.  Our Houston Zoo staff lead trips to exciting destinations, visiting biologists and scientists working to save animals all over the world.

Photo credit: Renee Bumpus
Photo credit: Renee Bumpus

Many people have had the amazing opportunity to explore exotic locations like the savannahs of Africa or the rainforests of South America without ever having experienced the splendor of North America’s Serengeti, Yellowstone National Park. It is arguably one of the most famous national parks in the world, and the best place to view wildlife in North America.  This historic park has been the host of many monumental wildlife catastrophes and victories.  Both bison and wolves have been eliminated and re-established in the park over the years.  The most studied wolf packs in the world have been in Yellowstone and much of what we know about wolf behavior today has been gained from observation and research performed there.

Photo credit: Dale Martin
Photo credit: Dale Martin

The Houston Zoo’s travel program began tours to Yellowstone in 2008 when a partnership with the Teton Science School, Wildlife Expeditions was established. Teton Science School offers some of the best conservation and educational programs in the country in the Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. We are proud to support their programing through this unique partnership.  Wildlife Expeditions has a staff of some of the best Yellowstone wildlife biologist guides.  These guides previously worked as park researchers, so they provide a special wildlife documentary style adventure on every trip.

Photo credit: Renee Bumpus
Photo credit: Renee Bumpus

The Houston Zoo Wildlife Conservation Program leads trips overseen by Wildlife Expedition staff, who take us directly to the animal action in Yellowstone three times a year.  Each season offers unforgettable wildlife experiences.   In the winter, we travel by snow coach and sleigh to watch bison and elk face the harsh icy landscape.  We spy on wolves as they battle the snow and cold to find their next meal.  In the spring, we watch bears emerge from hibernation with cubs in tow.  We see owls in nests with owlets and shaky newborn bison calves discovering their legs.  We watch wolf packs play and hunt. We often see over 40 different species in the spring as the snow and ice melt away and new flora begins to emerge.  Last spring we watched a wolf and two grizzly bears eat a carcass.  In the fall, we watch impressive wildlife courtship displays and enjoy the haunting sound of bugling elk.  We observe bears foraging for food.  One fall evening we followed a radio collared grizzly bear named Scarface along the side of the road as he foraged right outside our vehicle.

Photo credit: Dale Martin
Photo credit: Dale Martin

No matter the season, a Houston Zoo traveler is bound to see amazing wildlife while learning about the importance of saving these animals and the places they call home. These trips are all inclusive and utilize a safari style adventure, in a vehicle that allows for ultimate viewing. The safari-like vans have a roof that opens enabling a safe up-close and personal experience with bears and bison.  Throughout the trip, we meet with rangers and researchers in the park that provide updates and current wildlife monitoring news.

If you have questions or are interested in signing up for these or other wildlife tours, please visit our travel page on our Houston Zoo website at:

Remember, every time you visit the Houston Zoo a portion of your admission goes to saving animals in the wild.

Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe

The African painted dog is one the most distant relatives of the domestic dog and one of the most endangered carnivores in Africa.  With only around 3000 animals left in the wild they are a critically endangered species.  The Houston Zoo houses two beautiful African Painted dogs and is committed to saving their wild counterparts from extinction.  We partner with a conservation organization called Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) in Zimbabwe.  In our five year partnership with PDC we have enhanced their efforts by providing funding, resources and training for their staff and local communities.

Protecting existing populations of Painted dogs is a priority for PDC.  They monitor African painted dog packs all over Zimbabwe and are proactive in addressing threats to this species.  Local people are hired to carry out anti-poaching efforts to reduce the amount of human carnage on the dogs.   Their anti-poaching teams have been extremely successful in reducing mortality of the Painted dog by retrieving deadly snares (wire traps) from the park and apprehending poachers.   Painted dogs that are sick, injured or abandoned are cared for in PDC’s spacious rehabilitation facility until they are fit to be re-introduced again.  This holding area also serves as a valuable teaching environment for visiting tourists, community members and children that get the opportunity to meet the dogs eye to eye.

All the services PDC provides to the local communities are free of charge thanks to international support from donors like the Houston Zoo. The children education program, the Bush Camp, invites children from the local communities to experience local wildlife and nature first hand. In this specially designed program they learn about their role in the ecosystem and the importance of protecting endangered species.  They have seen many positive results from this valuable program including children reporting on poaching issues and illegal activities. Recently PDC opened an interpretive environmental visitor center for the community.  The Center improves PDC’s educational outreach to not only school children in the Bush Camp, but also to adults in the community, who can now come and learn about the ecosystem and use the computers.

How you can help:

PDC has developed a very successful Arts and Crafts center (Iganyana Arts center) in a local town where the artisans create intricate artwork made with the deadly snare wire traps collected by the anti-poaching teams. The artisans are paid for each piece and the town itself receives the proceeds upon sale overseas.  The Houston Zoo gift shop sells these pieces of art and you can protect the Painted dogs from extinction by purchasing a wire sculpture.  By bringing home this wire used by poachers you will ensure it will never kill again.

Come and learn all about PDC and painted dogs from PDC’s manager, Peter Blinston at a special event at the Houston Zoo in April.  Join us for an evening of wine and stories of protecting the endangered African Painted Dogs in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Click here to get your tickets!

Houston Zoo, Patricia Medici, & The Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative

The four living tapir species occur in the tropics of Central America (Baird’s tapir), South America (lowland tapir, mountain tapir), and Southeast Asia (Malayan tapir).  The lowland tapir has the broadest range of the four species extending from north-central Colombia and east of the Andes throughout most of tropical South America down to north-eastern Argentina and Paraguay at elevations up to 2,000 masl.  The lowland tapir occurs in 11 countries and 21 different biomes.

The species is currently listed as Vulnerable to Extinction by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Habitat destruction and fragmentation, with resulting population isolation, as well as hunting and road-kill are the main factors behind the decline of lowland tapir populations. Due to their individualistic lifestyle, low reproduction rate, and low population density lowland tapirs do not achieve a high local abundance, which makes them highly susceptible to threats. Populations show rapid decline when impacted. A large part of the lowland tapir populations are found outside the boundaries of legally protected areas, which hinders their protection.

South American Tapir-0064-5246Tapirs are widely recognized as “umbrella species” (species with large area requirements, which if given sufficient protected habitat area, will bring many other species under protection). Meeting the needs of an umbrella species provides protection for the species with which it co-occurs and the wild lands on which they all depend. In addition, tapirs are “landscape species” (species that occupy large home ranges often extending beyond protected area boundaries, which require a diversity of ecosystem types and have a significant impact on the structure, productivity and resilience of ecosystems). The movements of landscape species can functionally link different habitat types within a given landscape. The elimination of a landscape species may undermine these functional links and lead to cascading changes in ecological communities or even the loss of the ecosystem functions critical to the persistence of other species, communities, and the larger landscape itself. Lastly, tapirs play a critical role in shaping the structure and maintaining the functioning of ecosystems, mostly through seed dispersal and browsing, and thus have been recognized as “ecological engineers” as well as “gardeners of the forest.” Tapir population declines and local extinctions can seriously impact biodiversity.

In 1996, Houston Zoo partner, Patrícia Medici established a long-term research and conservation program on lowland tapirs in the Atlantic Forests of São Paulo, Brazil. Over the years, this pioneer program has included studies in basic biology and ecology, habitat use, population demography, epidemiology, genetics, and threat assessments, as well as promotion of community involvement through sustainable development, environmental education and habitat restoration efforts. One of the main achievements of the Atlantic Forest Tapir Program (1996-2008) has been working with local communities on the establishment of agro-forestry corridors and stepping-stones identified through telemetry studies to restore critical tapir habitat, while creating economic alternatives for local families. Results from the Atlantic Forest Tapir Program have been used to design a Regional Action Plan for Tapir Conservation in the Atlantic Forest which is currently under implementation in partnership with local stakeholders.

Bairds Tapir-0013-6217

In order to advance scientific knowledge and promote the conservation of this widely spread but seriously imperilled large mammal, in 2008 Patrícia Medici launched the Brazil-wide Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative aiming at establishing tapir conservatin programs in other biomes of Brazil where the species occurs. The first was the Pantanal, where no tapir research had ever been conducted. The Pantanal is the largest continuous freshwater wetland on the planet, but current intensification of traditional cattle ranching practices in use for the past 200 years is threatening the biome. The main goal of Pantanal Tapir Program is to assess the status and viability of tapir populations in the region and use these results to substantiate the development of a specific set of conservation recommendations that will benefit tapirs, other wildlife and the Pantanal biome itself. Overall, the LTCI uses tapirs as ambassadors for conservation, catalyzing habitat conservation, environmental education, outreach and awareness, training and capacity-building, and scientific tourism initiatives. In the near future, the Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative will establish similar programs in the Amazon and Cerrado biomes.

Since the Houston Zoo began support in 2004 there have been 57 tapirs collared for research to collect valuable information on how to protect this amazing species.

How the Zoo is helping tapirs in the wild:

  • We assist with research and protection efforts to save tapirs in the wild.
  • We provide funding for much needed equipment for monitoring tapirs in the wild.
  • We have staff travel to Panama to assist with field research
  • We assist with tapir awareness events in Panama
  • We assist with the Tapir Specialist group webpage

What can you do to help tapirs in the wild: 

  • Learn more about the IUCN/SSC Tapir Specialist Group and the plight of tapirs in the wild
  • Donate to support the purchase of equipment to save tapirs in the wild
  • Friend the Tapir Specialist Group on Facebook for updates on tapirs in the wild
  • Some wood products we buy here in the US are made by destroying tapir habitat.  Become an informed shopper about furniture and other wood products.  Whenever possible, choose locally sourced wood and don’t buy anything that is made of imported wood.
  • Visit the Houston Zoo, every time you visit the Zoo a portion of your admission goes directly to saving animals in the wild.



The Lemurs of Madagascar

Lemurs are a unique kind of primate and may resemble a cross between a cat and a squirrel. All lemurs are found only on the island of Madagascar off the East Coast of Africa. There, new lemur species are still being discovered with now over 100 recorded to date. Lemurs range in size, shape and specialty; ring-tailed lemurs are the size of a cat and spend a lot of their time on the ground using their long striped tail as a flag to communicate each other, while a mouse lemur that spends most of its time in the trees can weigh less than 30 grams and is said to be the smallest primate in the world.
lemur group

The island of Madagascar is a critical conservation priority. Over ninety percent of lemurs are threatened with extinction. Forty-nine species are listed as endangered. Another two dozen lemurs are critically endangered. They are among the most threatened species on the planet. For a group of primates that are found nowhere else in the world, the stakes are high but there is still time to protect the forests these lemurs live in, and protect the lemurs as well.

lemur pairThe Houston Zoo houses several species of this fascinating primate and we have had quite a few baby lemurs in the past.  The animals at the Zoo are there to remind us of their extraordinary value and that we are committed to protecting their counterparts in the wild.  We partner with and assist people dedicated to researching and finding solutions to save animals from extinction. Since we have several animals from Madagascar, we have supported many efforts to protect nature there.

The Houston Zoo partners with a Malagasy (native people of Madagascar) conservation organization based in Madagascar called GERP, a French acronym which translates to Primate Education and Research Program. GERP is comprised of many Malagasy researchers and conservationists that have grown up around the areas where they now work to protect the wildlife and habitat. Not only do they address threats to the animals, they have a clear understanding of the challenges their own local people face as well. In finding solutions that benefit the people and animals, they ensure long-term sustainability and success. Young Malagasy women and men are now able to have careers protecting nature, thanks to organizations like GERP.

Dr. Jonah Jonah-Picture-Ratsimbazafyis a primatologist who was one of the founding members of GERP. He now leads the organization and teaches at the University of Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. He encourages young Malagasy citizens to enter into science related careers. Jonah says that no lemurs will become extinct on his watch, and we believe him!

To that end, the Houston Zoo provides GERP with web support, is currently working on a new website for them, and providing research supplies (headlamps, binoculars etc.), grant writing assistance and financial support for the organization. Our animal care staff holds various fundraisers for GERP that allow guests to purchase art that our lemurs have painted. All of these funds are used to save lemurs in the wild.

To help us save lemurs in the wild:

  • Visit our webpage and donate directly to GERP’s efforts.
  • Be aware of the kind of woods you buy.  Many precious woods such as Rosewood and Ebony are illegally logged from Madagascar’s forest to be made into furniture, musical instruments and other items.  Buy locally sourced wood products where ever possible.
  • Join the Houston Zoo’s Conservation Facebook page to keep informed about animal saving efforts you can be a part of.
  • Visit the Zoo!  Every time you visit the Zoo a portion of your admission to directly to saving animals in the wild.

Okapi – From the Heart of Africa to the Houston Zoo

Written by Rick Barongi

One of the rarest and most beautiful animals at the Houston Zoo is the okapi (“oh-cop-ee”) or forest giraffe.  Since it was first discovered by the western world in 1901 it has captivated the imagination like few other species.  This fascination has led to a colorful and tumultuous history.  Every species in our zoo has a conservation story but few are as inspirational as the incredible okapi.

Unlike its cousin the giraffe, the okapi is only found in the most remote rainforests of central Africa.  Their total population is estimated between 10,000 and 20,000 with the major concentration in the Ituri Forest of northwest DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire and the Belgium Congo).


Due to its wary nature and remote forest habitat it is not surprising that it eluded science longer than any other large mammal species in Africa.  The native Mbuti pygmies were very familiar with this animal as they hunted them by covering over large pit traps for unsuspecting animals to fall into.   When a Belgium army officer was able to send a skeleton to the British Museum it’s classification (Okapi johnstoni, after Sir Harry Johnson) as a forest relative of the giraffe made headlines around the world.  This set off a quest to bring live specimens to western zoos.

Okapi-blog-2The Bronx Zoo was the first American Zoo to exhibit an okapi in the 1930’s, where it lived for over 20 years.  Capturing, acclimating and shipping such a large and powerful animal has many challenges.  In the 1950’s the Belgians operated a special wildlife capture station in the village of Epulu in the northwest Belgian Congo.  At one point in the early 1960’s this station maintained and bred over 25 okapi.  They shipped okapi to zoos in Europe and the United States until the station was destroyed, and all the okapi killed, by rebels during the fight for independence from Belgium.

The Epulu station was revitalized in the 1980’s by some members of the American zoo community along with a Swiss couple working in Zaire (Karl and Rosmarie Ruf), who developed a long-term conservation plan for the region.  This effort resulted in the declaration of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in 1992.  This was followed in 1997 with the Ituri region being designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  This international recognition was critical for the protection of the incredible wildlife and people in this unique corner of our world.

What the Zoo does:

Tragedy revisited the Epulu center on June 24, 2012 when Mai-Mai rebels (illegal poachers and gold miners) attacked the village killing six people and all 14 okapi residing at the conservation center.  Faced with tremendous hardships, a group of dedicated individuals led by the White Oak Conservation Center in northern Florida, began a rebuilding effort with locals in the area.  The Houston Zoo was a key contributor to this effort.  Our staff raised $25,000 for okapi conservation.
The Houston Zoo’s commitment to okapi care extends to wild okapi as well as the four animals at our zoo.   Our fourth okapi is a new addition born on November 28, 2014 (pictured with mother).  The zoo was extremely fortunate to first acquire zoo-born okapi in 2003, thanks to the generous donation made possible by an exceptional friend of the zoo, Ethel Carruth (Ethel G. and Allen H. Carruth Foundation).

What you can do:

It is almost impossible to observe an okapi in the wild so seeing these amazing animals at our Zoo is the best way to inspire care and raise support for their protection in Africa.  You can also bring in your old electronic devices to be recycled at the Zoo to save the okapi in the wild.  This will reduced the demand for a metallic material in your electronic devices that is otherwise obtained by destructively mining areas within okapi habitat.

Remember every time you visit the Zoo you save wildlife like okapi in the wild.  A portion of your admission and memberships go directly to protecting animals in the wild.


The Giant Armadillo Project

Contributors: Arnaud Desbiez, Giant Armadillo Project; Renee Bumpus, Houston Zoo

When you visit the Houston Zoo, you may be lucky enough to see our 3-banded armadillos out and around with our zookeepers.  We love our armadillos and are committed to helping their species in the wild. The Houston Zoo values its ability to be a voice for species that very few people have ever even heard of. The armadillo family has one of those members in great need of help called the giant armadillo.

Giant Armadillo

Millions of years ago South America was dominated by giants such as the gigantic ground sloths which could reach over nine feet long and weigh more than 750 pounds, or gargantuan heavily armored glyptodonts which could reach the size of a small automobile. Today, these giants are all but gone. However, almost forgotten by science, one species reminiscent of this amazing past still exists: the giant armadillo. Although much smaller than their prehistoric relatives, a 70 pound armadillo can still be very impressive.

Arnaud Desbiez has been dedicating his life to studying these amazing creatures about which very little are known. He started the Giant Armadillo Project in Brazil with a main goal to investigate the ecology and biology of this species and understand its function in the ecosystem.

One of the great discoveries of the project was the role of giant armadillos as ecosystem engineers (organisms that create or modify habitats). Our research in the Brazilian Pantanal shows that giant armadillo burrows are an important shelter and thermal refuge to over 25 species ranging from tiny lizards to large collared peccaries. Giant armadillo burrows offer an important refuge from extreme conditions (temperature in the deep burrow is a constant 750f) and their role may become more important as impacts from climate change increases.

Another big discovery of the project was documenting the birth and parental care of giant armadillos. We discovered that the gestation period is 5 months and they only have 1 young at a time which requires constant care and nursing for a minimum of 6 months!

Giant Armadillo Release

Giant armadillos are naturally rare throughout their distribution and are becoming even rarer because of human impacts. Due to their low population densities and low reproductive rates, they can rapidly disappear locally. Habitat loss and hunting are the main threats to the species. They may also be targeted by collectors for their giant middle fore claw. Other impacts contributing to the decline of populations include fire and being struck by vehicles on main roads.  Finally, the fact that few people know of their existence is a threat, if no one knows about an animal, who will protect it? Giant armadillos can go locally extinct without anyone noticing.

Giant Armadillo ClawThe Giant Armadillo Project provides training to the next generation of conservationists. They also work hard to educate the local community so that giant armadillos become ambassadors for biodiversity conservation and integrate the project into local and national conservation initiatives.

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:

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