Sir David Attenborough helps bring RZSS armadillo project to life on screen

07/04/2017 in RZSS

The award-winning conservation and education work carried out by RZSS’s Conservation Project Manager, Arnaud Desbiez, and his team is being highlighted in an upcoming BBC television documentary called Hotel Armadillo. The Natural World documentary, which is narrated by Sir David Attenborough, is due to air on Friday 7 April at 9pm on BBC2.

Little was known about the giant armadillo when Arnaud began his pioneering research in the Pantanal, which has been supported by RZSS since 2005. Fast forward little more than a decade and the team have helped transform our understanding of this ecosystem engineer, with the project being awarded a prestigious Whitley Fund for Nature Award in 2015 for its achievements in fieldwork, data collection and community outreach.

Hotel Armadillo, co-produced by Glasgow-based independent TV production company Maramedia, for BBC Natural World and PBS Nature for BBC Natural World, saw a small film crew work at close quarters with the Giant Armadillo Conservation Project over a span of two years in the Brazilian Pantanal. The programme will feature the first documented footage of a newborn wild giant armadillo, as well as the first pictures taken inside a giant armadillo burrow.

Arnaud Desbiez, RZSS’s Conservation Project Manager, said:

“It's great to see the work RZSS is doing with giant armadillos being highlighted to such a big audience, and to have the whole programme narrated by Sir David Attenborough is very special. Two years ago I was lucky enough to receive a Whitley Award from Sir David so it feels entirely appropriate for him to share our story with the world.

“RZSS has supported our work in the Brazilian Pantanal for 12 years now and during that time the team have worked really hard to research and raise awareness of the importance of these amazing animals. Hotel Armadillo can only help make more people aware of this enigmatic species and the important role it plays within its ecosystem.”

The initial research into giant armadillos started with radio-tracking in order to map their habitat range and developed into camera traps which gave a glimpse into parental behaviour, habitat use and burrow building, which beforehand had never been captured in such detail.

Arnaud and his team have helped shed new light on the hidden world of the species, including the fact that giant armadillo burrows provide shelter for over 80 different species of animal, making them a very important part of their surroundings. As a result of this research, 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, and talks are ongoing with the state government to make the giant armadillo the official symbol of the state.

Arnaud’s research has also contributed towards a community outreach programme which has reached over 65,000 people to date and actively encourages locals to report sightings.

Giant armadillos are currently classified as vulnerable on the ICUN Red List due to the multitude of threats they face.

You can watch Hotel Armadillo on BBC2 on Friday 7 April at 9pm.

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