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Ten GIANT years for wildlife conservation

04/08/2020 in Conservation

RZSS Conservation Associate Dr Arnaud Desbiez and his team have just reached an incredible milestone. Last month the Giant Armadillo Conservation Project (GACP) celebrated one decade of giant effort and giant accomplishments.

Ten years ago we knew very little about the giant armadillo, and the GACP team have worked hard to uncover the secret behaviour of this remarkable creature, raising awareness and ensuring protection from state authorities along the way. Once an enigma, the giant armadillo is now the ambassador of ecosystem health and protected areas in the area of Mato Grosso do Sul.

We’re proud to have core-funded Arnaud and the project since the very beginning and are thrilled to now congratulate him and the team on this achievement!

Over to you, Arnaud:

Dear Friends,

Ten years ago, on 30 July 2010, I got my first camera trap picture of a giant armadillo.

I had been working in the Pantanal for the past 8 years but never seen a giant armadillo. I had seen burrows and knew the animal existed. However, it seemed to be more of a legend than a real animal.

It was only until I took time off from the project I was working on to set up camera traps specifically to search for this elusive ghost, that after one month, I finally got a first glimpse of this remarkable animal. 

I remember exactly how I felt when I saw this first image. My stomach clenched. I could not breathe. My heart was pounding so hard. I could not stop staring at this picture. How is it possible that an animal so extraordinary can even exist? How is it possible that we know nothing about it? How can such a giant animal be so impossible to see?

That single image changed my life forever. I never really looked back. I finished the other project I was working on and threw myself completely into the world of giant armadillos. From the Pantanal we expanded to the Cerrado, Atlantic forest and Argentinian Chaco. From giant armadillos we expanded to save their relative the Giant Anteater. The projects became programs. We founded an NGO. Today we are nine people working full time. 17 masters, 7 Ph.D students and two post docs work or have worked with us. We collaborate with over 35 Brazilian institutions and universities. That single image changed many lives.

Two of the papers we have recently published really demonstrate our wide reach. We have a new paper from our field site in the Argentinean Chaco led by Yamil Di Blanco in the Journal of Zoology. Another of our latest papers was published in Biotropica through a wide collaboration with 17 researchers to document the impact of roadkill on giant armadillos in the Cerrado, Atlantic Forest, Amazon and Pantanal.

Ten years ago, on 30 July 2010, our projects were born.

Today on 31 July 2020, all the hospitals in Campo Grande have reached 100% occupation and yet no measures are being imposed to control the pandemic. On 31 July 2020, there are 7,604 fires ranging in the Pantanal of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. This has never been seen before, despite last year being record breaking. Soon it will be the Amazon…

However right now, instead of fear, I am making myself feel joy and gratitude towards giant armadillos and of course all of you who have made this incredible journey possible. We still have so much more to do!

I know these are extremely challenging times for all of you, but I hope this news from the field will also fill you with hope and some of the images make you smile.

Signing off feeling full of gratitude and hope for the next 10 years.

Arnaud and the teams


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