Giant anteater mother with pup on its back in the Brazilian Cerrado Image: ALESSANDRA BERTASSONI ICAS

Roads are an issue for animals globally, preventing movement and dispersal and causing death via vehicle collisions. Our long-term partners at the Wild Animal Conservation Institute (ICAS) have been working on reducing the negative effect of roads on wildlife in Brazil’s Cerrado with a focus on a very unusual mammal, the giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla).

Giant anteaters are well adapted to their environment. Their elongated jaws and sticky tongues are ideal for fishing ants and termites out of their underground homes. Their large, bushy tails provide excellent shade from the midday heat and their babies can ride piggy-back style on their mothers until their old enough to trek the long distances needed to find food.  

Unfortunately, their environment is changing. In the Cerrado, savannah scrub is being converted to vast plantations of eucalyptus and soya. These developments force giant anteaters to roam further in search of suitable habitat, but many of their dispersal routes are now blocked by large highways and this charismatic species is a frequent roadkill casualty.

With support from RZSS, the team at ICAS has spent several years documenting the extent of wildlife roadkill on the Cerrado’s highways via extensive surveys. By fitting giant armadillos with GPS tag harnesses, the team has also collected data on how this species moves through the landscape and what kinds of road safety measures will be most appropriate to protect them.

Having gained this information and understanding the wildlife vehicle collisions can also be very dangerous for drivers, ICAS works closely with truck drivers to minimise their risk of collisions. The team has also had wildlife road safety measures built into state government policy and is now working with other Brazilian NGOs to establish a wildlife vehicle collision observatory.

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Dr Arnaud Desbiez

Dr Arnaud Desbiez

Conservation associate

Helen Taylor releasing dark bordered beauty moths

IMAGE: Jess Wise 2023

Dr Helen Taylor

Conservation programme manager

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