Just when you are about to give up, four giant armadillos come along at once!

14/02/2017 in Conservation

Photo by Emmanuel Mouton

2017 promises to be a busy year, as we prepare to launch several new initiatives. So, before we set off for more expeditions I wanted to update you on our final expeditions towards the end of last year.

The October expedition was extremely hot. It was the peak of the dry season and unfortunately several fires broke out, burning large areas. Thankfully, we don’t believe any giant armadillos or anteaters were hurt, although it is always sad seeing the darkened landscape reduced to ashes. Fortunately, the Pantanal is well adapted to these events. As soon as the first rains break, the landscape becomes green and lush once again. 

During October and November, the team recaptured Renée and Mafalda, successfully tagging them with GPS transmitters. Renée is doing well, she is obviously a young animal as her territory is pretty small. It overlaps with Liana and I can’t wait to start the genetic study to find out if the two are related. Whilst these expeditions were successful, nothing could prepare us for our final trip in December…

It is important to appreciate that we often go for periods of up to 9 or 10 months without the capture of a new animal. In December, however, no less than FOUR new giant armadillos were found. This is truly outstanding for us and we could not be happier! Caio Motta, a veterinarian at the Sao Paulo Zoo, was last with us in 2011 when we were just starting the project. Thanks to him Danilo and I could reminisce and realize how far we have come… so let me introduce you to our new giant armadillos!

The first giant armadillo captured was a huge male that we named Emmanuel. It took many hours following his maze of tracks to locate his burrow. The team had almost given up hope when a cowboy mentioned he had spotted tracks not too far from the area they had previously searched. I cannot wait to learn more about him, I am almost sure that Emmanuel is the male we filmed destroying a termite mound back in May. Unfortunately, the joy of his capture was marred by the presence of a very deep hole above his foot, which was badly swollen. If I were to guess, I would say the injury was the result of a puma bite. We cleaned the wound, provided medication and are hopeful that he will be able to recover.

Photo by Emmanuel Mouton

I know there are some that believe we should not interfere in situations like this, and let nature follow its course, but I could never do that. If we have the smallest opportunity to increase the chances of survival of a giant armadillo there is no doubt in my mind we need to do it. We tagged and released him and I cannot wait to discover how he is doing. At the moment his territory is close to the ranch, which should make our lives easier.

A few days later, one of the camera traps placed near a fresh burrow showed a male giant armadillo entering. Gabriel and Danilo were working together that day and could not believe their luck. They returned to the ranch to get a trap when they saw fresh giant armadillo tracks on the road. They searched the area and Danilo stumbled upon another fresh burrow. Two new animals at once!!! As we had two trucks we were easily able to divide the team and that night a large healthy adult male and an adult female were captured. However, unfortunately, once again, one of them was carrying injuries.

The female giant armadillo, named Emmeline, was in quite a bad state. Most of the skin on the underside of her body, and scales on her tail were peeling off, and she had several gashes to her armour. The veterinarians believe she is recovering from severe burns and might have suffered a predation attempt. To be honest she looked pretty awful. We did everything we could to help her we can only hope she will recover.  Thankfully, the large male which we named Caetano was perfectly healthy. He was in a deep sleep in the crate when we finished the procedure on Emmeline and went to sedate him. We did not even need hold him to apply the anesthetic. After their release, we managed to monitor these animals for a few days. Emmeline was using a territory close to Liana, while Caetano traveled out beyond our 300 km2 research area. I really hope he will not travel too far away so we can continue following him.

As if three new armadillos were not enough for one trip, we came close to capturing a fourth!  I was monitoring the new giant armadillo male Caetano with Emmanuel (the human) when we came upon some fresh giant armadillo tracks on the road. To our surprise, we located a new fresh burrow. When we placed the trap we never realized that a root had become pushed inside the trap, securing the door in an open position. The animal went into the trap but as the door stayed opened he returned and dug a new gallery to escape. We only realised this after three nights. What a disappointment….. but with much was going on we could not really dwell on this. After capturing three new animals a fourth seemed almost greedy! One of the reasons we believe we were so successful during this expedition was that it rained regularly early in the evenings. This meant we had fresh tracks early in the morning waiting for us. It was really perfect! The stars really aligned themselves for us during that expedition and we can only hope our luck continues into the year ahead!

Until next time, all the best from the Pantanal!

Arnaud

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