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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This morning, we humanely euthanized our male, 20-year-old jaguar, Kan Balam. Due to the tremendous care provided to him by his keepers and our veterinary team, Kan Balam lived well beyond his expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years.

The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. Quality care and continuous advances in veterinary medicine extends animals’ lives longer than ever, with most felines in human care living well beyond previous generations. Because of this, all cats, including domestic house cats and jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.

Read more about Kan B, and the love his keepers had for him on our blog: www.houstonzoo.org/blog/mourning-loss-geriatric-jaguar-kan-balam/
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This morning, we humanely euthanized our male, 20-year-old jaguar, Kan Balam.  Due to the tremendous care provided to him by his keepers and our veterinary team, Kan Balam lived well beyond his expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years. 
 
The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. Quality care and continuous advances in veterinary medicine extends animals’ lives longer than ever, with most felines in human care living well beyond previous generations. Because of this, all cats, including domestic house cats and jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.

Read more about Kan B, and the love his keepers had for him on our blog: https://www.houstonzoo.org/blog/mourning-loss-geriatric-jaguar-kan-balam/

 

Comment on Facebook

Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur; happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr purr purr #RIP #bigbangtheory

Is this the one that had the limp?

Rest in peace, thanks Zoo for the great care! 20 years wow

My thoughts of sympathy are with you all. I can't even imagine the sadness you feel today.

Thank you to you and your staff for the years of quality care given this magnificant creature.

Hugs to all of you keepers that took special care of Kan Balam.

I know he lived a lot longer due to the excellent care he got at the Zoo.

Heartfelt condolences to the veterinary and keeper staff. Thank you for taking care of him

Katie Wilson did you see this?

My condolences to the keepers and staff. He was a beautiful animal, and we enjoyed seeing him.

Thank you for providing him with a caring and enriched life. So sorry for your loss!

I am so very sorry for all of you that loved and cared for him.

So sorry to read this. It is always a hard decision. RIP and run free sweet boy.

I'm so sorry for your loss. Thanks for taking such great care of him so he was able to live a long life. My thoughts are with his keepers and all who adored him. <3

Condolences to the carnivore keepers and veterinary staff.

RIP Kan & run free - condolences to the Houston zoo carnivore team 😥

RIP Kan. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

What a long, love filled life. Rest in Peace Kan💖

So sorry. He was one beautiful animal.

RIP ... My condolences to the staff ... 😥 ...

Awe :( RIP Kan Balam!! You were a beautiful soul for sure!!!

I am so so sorry, Katie Rose Buckley-Jones and sending you lots of love hugs and prayers. ❤️🙏🏻

Katie Rose Buckley-Jones I won’t ever forget the time you asked him to bring something and he ripped off a piece of cardboard and tried to hand it to you ❤️ thank you for introducing me to him. Sending you guys many hugs

Sorry to hear about your loss Katie ❤️

Carmen, Cynthia, Claudia was he out when y’all went?

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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: I'm still using this.
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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: Im still using this.

 

Comment on Facebook

Are there some zoo animals that enjoy this weather?

SMG is another reason why Houston Zoo is the best Zoo!

Happy New Year “sea lion keeper “ 💖💖

More snow for TJ and Max ❤️ lucky them!

Are we positive that’s the statue rather than it really just being that cold? 😛

That’s my best friend Sophie for ya! 😂

Brrrrr

Omg the Zoo is so awesome 😂😂😂 Alana Berry

Omg be warm sweetoe

Haha!! Good one!

Sweetie 💞

Ashley Jucker 😂

Mike DePope

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We've heard of stalagmites but is stalagmice a thing? ... See MoreSee Less

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Weve heard of stalagmites but is stalagmice a thing?

 

Comment on Facebook

Ok, it took me a minute to get this. I was literally zooming in to try to find the mouse. 🤦🏻‍♀️🙄😂

Cindy Christina Angela Ramirez see I told y’all! Lol

Andrew Kaufmann Look its Richard Jr! 😂

Wow ... good photo shot ... show the world that you need to protect your pipe ... if not, freezing water will expand the pipe and crack the pipe !!!

“Baby it’s cold outside!”

I fell for the mouse thing too..

That's nothing! Talk to keepers from the northern states or Canada!

i was honestly looking for a mouse lol

Johnnie R. Summerlin, cool, see the "stalagm ice"?

Wow,that is so neat!

Annecia Wesley but where is the ice bacon? Lol

Two words. Pipe insulation.

That’s awesome!

Ana Rivers Smith cool!

Cortez

Pauline Ervin

Denise Daigre

Ashley Nguyen

Vicente Gonzalez

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