May 2024: Giant armadillo conservation update

Posted 24 Jun 2024

ICAS update May 24 - Giant armadillo

Our charity has worked with Dr Arnaud Desbiez and his team at the Wildlife Conservation Institute (ICAS) in Brazil for over a decade to safeguard threatened giant armadillos, giant anteaters and their rapidly disappearing  habitat. This team has discovered nearly everything that is currently known about giant armadillos and has made incredible strides in making habitats and roads safer for giant anteaters.  

Arnaud recently updated us on what’s been happening with ICAS’ giant armadillo conservation work in the last few months. 


The Pantanal is the world's largest tropical wetland and one of the most biologically rich environments on the planet - but it is currently incredibly vulnerable to wildfires. Lately, as in most places in the world, the weather patterns have been more irregular than ever. We seem to have skipped the flooding season, which could potentially be disastrous in the next few months.  

In an effort to combat and prevent these potentially devastating fires, we have provided community fire brigade training to 22 ranches that, together, protect 1600 km² of land. We will be sure to keep everyone updated on the situation here as the weather warms and dries further.

Earlier in Spring, we were able to check in on almost all the animals we monitor across the Pantanal - except for Stacey, whose range was blocked by water.  

During our checks we spotted a young male in Lesley's territory. It looked like he was sharing a burrow with her, and the two seemed so comfortable around each other. They displayed different behavior than we would expect from a potential mate, so we have collected a genetic sample to find out if this young male is Lesley's son.

In the next few months, our geneticist will be examining the relatedness between all the individuals in our study area, and we will finally have new insights into our long-term giant armadillo soap opera. Paternity tests always bring surprises... 

Giant armadillo in the Pantanal on camera trap

ICAS update May 24 - Giant armadillo


The Parque Natural Municipal do Pombo is the only protected area in the Cerrado of Mato Grosso do Sul where giant armadillos are found and is one of the largest fragments of continuous native vegetation in the state. We have been working here for two years and documented eight endangered species so far. Three species spotted on our camera traps (two reptiles and one armadillo species) had never been found in the state before!  

This little park is still a real unknown, and a neglected biodiversity hotspot.

Recently, we officially signed a partnership to work with the largest eucalyptus company in the state. As eucalyptus plantations are taking over the landscape, it is key that we work with them to find ways to set aside connected native habitat to enable native species to survive. We understand this is a tricky partnership, but we are grateful that they chose giant armadillos as the flagship species for their conservation efforts and hope to start this work in June. 

Atlantic Forest

Despite the rain, the routine of camera trap checking in the area continued. Three new cameras were installed in apiaries (areas where beehives are kept) where mitigation measures to prevent giant armadillo attacks had been installed.

A new livelihood programme launched, with 27 women from the local community near Rio Doce State Park graduating from an arts and crafts training course. These women are now producing giant armadillo products including bags, key chains and more. We hope to extend the programme going forward.  

ICAS update May 24 - Giant armadillo
Danilo giant armadillo vet in the Pantanal

IMAGE: Jess Wise 2022

Health initiatives

Danilo Kluyber, our veterinarian, has started a new project named ‘One burrow, One Health’ which seeks to understand, monitor and develop public attitudes and behaviour to prevent disease transmission between armadillos, domestic dogs and humans.  

We are collaborating with several research institutions in Brazil, in France (Research and Development Institute - IRD Montpellier University, France) and local governmental agencies, to develop this initiative.  

Part of Danilo’s PhD, the objective of this study is to evaluate the prevalence of zoonotic pathogens (like Leprosis, Leishmaniasis, Chagas Disease, Toxoplasmosis and Coronavirus) from armadillos, domestic dogs and humans in the Cerrado and the Pantanal.

The team is also working with the local community around the Pombo park, collecting 120 samples from domestic dogs. All 120 dogs were also vaccinated against eight different diseases like Canine distemper, Parvovirus Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Coronaviruses, and Parainfluenza and rabies. Also, 30 domestic cats were vaccinated against rabies. This was a great opportunity to work with the local community and talk about the park and its purpose.  

Armadillos & Honey

In January we were contacted by some indigenous groups that were having problems with giant armadillos predating their beehives. At the end of March we set out to visit a large, protected area the size of Belgium where 16 different indigenous groups live.

The NGO that helps the communities in this huge 26,500 km2 indigenous protected area seeks to find economic alternatives for the groups. One of the alternatives is the production of honey - currently there are 85 beekeepers.  

In 2018 they produced three tons of honey, but last year only produced 500kg. The main culprit for this crash in production seems to be the giant armadillos that have been attacking and destroying beehives. Interestingly this is also the time when deforestation became rampant around the reserve, which may have pushed giant armadillos into the reserve and made them seek new resources.  

We brought lots of materials to show them and they selected three mitigation measures we know are 100% effective in the Cerrado. Although each method has its drawbacks and difficulties, we are in communication with the leader of the association and plan to go back and implement model apiaries in geographically distant communities so that they can select firsthand the methods they want to deploy to prevent giant armadillo attacks in the future.  

Adriano and Marcus Armadillos and Honey project in Cerrado Brazil

IMAGE: Jess Wise 2022

We would like to thank the players of People’s Postcode Lottery for their generous support which has helped this project. 

You can help save threatened giant armadillos in Brazil by becoming a Conservation Champion