Giant Armadillo & Giant Anteater updates 31-07-2020

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Giant Armadillo & Giant Anteater updates 31-07-2020

Monitored giant anteater (Fonte: ICAS)

Enviado por: Arnaud and the team
Data: 21 de julho de 2020


Giant Armadillo & Giant Anteater updates 31-07-2020

Dear Friends,

Yesterday was a special day for me. Ten years ago, on July 30th, 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 had 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 a Ngo. Today we are 9 people working full time. 17 masters, 7 Ph.D students and 2 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.

Since my last update we ran two expeditions that lasted two weeks in the Pantanal where we monitored seven giant armadillos of which four were recaptured for health checks and to place a GPS device (for some animals). For me one of the highlights in the field was recapturing Sara our juvenile giant armadillo who continues to live within her mother’s territory. We only documented them sharing a burrow together once, but from what we have learned from other armadillos it should be a couple of more years before she disperses. I also must add here, that even after 10 years, being in the presence of a giant armadillo still triggers the same emotional responses as it did 10 years ago. It is always such a privilege and magical experience.

In the Pantanal, we have also initiated the permanent camera trap grid that we plan to install and keep in our study area for many years to come. This grid will help us monitor animals in the long term, check their health and reproduction, but it will also be an essential for comparative purposes for the giant armadillo project we are starting in the Atlantic forest and one day, soon, in the Cerrado! Unfortunately, the camera traps we require to complete this grid are in the United States. Due to the Pandemic we are also experiencing a serious delay in our work in the Atlantic forest. The park is now letting us return, however for only a limited number of days at a time. Lucas is in the field right now installing new camera traps. I just heard that we have images of three new animals. However, we needed to spend a lot more time in the field to be able to create our grid. Furthermore, all the education activities and work with local stakeholders has been postponed once again due to the Pandemic.

As for the Anteaters & Highways all road monitoring has been halted. We have not been able to retrieve our equipment in the United States to collar more animals, however, we are currently following 7 adult female giant anteaters of which 6 have pups! It is an incredible experience to monitor the anteaters and see what attentive mothers’ giant anteaters are. Small pups sleep under their mothers’ tail. When we disturb them to check on the mom’s collar the pup quickly races up its mom’s back leg and holds on tight. When the pup gets older it will sleep by her side covering himself with his own tail.

Last week we have placed a collar on new juvenile giant anteater, bringing number of juveniles monitored to four. For now, none of the Juveniles have dispersed. This will be key information for understanding giant anteater population dynamics. Since 2017 we have only been able to document 2 dispersing events. Both events involved females, one dispersed 50 km in a straight line, while the other over 100 km in a straight line. The idea is to replace collars on the animals to follow and understand dispersal patterns. Two weeks ago, Danilo and Amanda also tested the potential of drones to try to estimate giant anteater densities. We are still not sure if this will work, but will keep making adjustments to try.

Many pups are also being orphaned due to roadkill at this time of the year. At the moment our partners have a total of 8 pups under their care and the care of animal rescue centers. Two other pups that arrived died after a few days. We have delayed the release of our strong healthy juvenile to September as the ranch where it will be freed is very dry and we want to wait for the first rains to start to give the animal the best chance possible. He has been under human care for over a year and has adapted well to his pre-release enclosure. We have high hopes for him.

When we are not in the field we continue to isolate in our homes and work hard on data analysis and new papers. We published a Giant Anteater Population Viability Analysis paper and worked with one of our masters student to publish two articles on Xenarthra health. Our education team continues building the online curriculum for the schools and this month we will be offering another Xenarthra Conservation online course to 300 students. A small fee from each student is being collected to be donated to local charities involved in providing supplies, food and care to people impacted by Covid-19.

Ten years ago, on July 30th our projects were born. Today on July 31st 2020 all the hospitals in Campo Grande have reached 100% occupation and yet no measures are being imposed to control the Pandemic. On July 31st 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 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.

Thank you so much to all of you. Remember, if you need us to run a live session for you staff to boost morale on whatever platform you choose, we are happy to help. I am sending a link with a few more videos for you to use on social media There is a fun one with an ocelot and a giant armadillo. Enjoy!

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

Arnaud and team.











ICAS (INSTITUTO DE CONSERVAÇÃO DE ANIMAIS SILVESTRES). Acesso em; Enviado em 31 de julho de 2020.



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