Conservation Partner Update: Giant Armadillo Conservation Program

Conservation Action Round-Up Engagement (CARE) grants provide full-time Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden staff members the opportunity to identify and fund conservation projects that they believe are worthy of the Zoo’s support. One of the 2016 grantees was the Giant Armadillo Conservation Program, receiving $5,000. The project established the first long-term ecological study of giant armadillos in the Pantanal wetland and is now expanding to other parts of Brazil.

The main goal of the project is to investigate the ecology and biology of the species and understand its function in the ecosystem using radio transmitters, camera traps, burrow surveys, resource monitoring, resource mapping and interviews with local people. It is still unclear how many giant armadillos remain in the wild, but the species is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Here’s an update from the organization:

In 2017, we successfully completed a pilot density study of giant armadillos in the Pantanal region of Brazil using a grid of camera traps and results are being analyzed. We detected all known animals in the area where cameras were set, which is very positive. Our four year giant anteater study in the Pantanal finished in August. Home ranges, habitat selection, analysis of movement in relation to temperature for 15 animals is currently being analyzed.

In the Pantanal, while the giant armadillo research continued to make a lot of exciting progress in 2017, we also experienced a setback at the end of the year with the loss of two animals due to habitat loss and fire. We caught four new giant armadillos and performed six recaptures to place a GPS on the animal’s armor. We deployed ten GPS tags on giant armadillos. Although the GPS tags fall off eventually, the quality of the data is outstanding and provides us with information that conventional techniques can’t.

As a result of the Giant Armadillo Conservation Project, state authorities have selected the giant armadillo as an indicator species for the creation of protected areas in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. A species few knew of five years ago will now be used to champion wider habitat conservation measures.

When you visit the Zoo, don't forget to Round Up for Conservation and help support conservation projects like this! Guests can become everyday conservationists by simply rounding up to the next dollar or adding 50 cents to their totals when making purchases at the Zoo.

Photo credit: Cristian Dimitrius

Map graphic: Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

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