Saving Giant Armadillos from Extinction in the Atlantic Forest

Lucas Mendes Barreto

The Giant Armadillo (Priodontes maximus) is a rare, South American species classified as Vulnerable to extinction that can easily and rapidly become locally extinct due to their very low reproductive rates and naturally low densities (Desbiez & Attias, 2022). Habitat loss is one of the main threats to this species, especially in the Atlantic Forest where it has been classified as Critically Endangered on the Brazilian National red list (Chiarello et al., 2015). In Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, giant armadillos have become extinct except in the Rio Doce State Park (RDSP), which is now the last remanent habitat where a potentially viable population of giant armadillos still occurs.

Camera trap of a giant armadillo in the Rio Doce State Park. © ICAS.

Camera trap of a giant armadillo in the Rio Doce State Park. © ICAS.

For the past three years, I have been researching giant armadillos inside the RDSP using camera traps and have identified at least 40 individuals. While the park itself is well protected, any giant armadillos that may be living outside the park are not. These potentially vulnerable animals are key to the population viability of giant armadillos in the RDSP. In this project, I will expand my work to the habitat fragments surrounding the park to ensure that giant armadillos outside the park are not isolated and can contribute to the population viability of the RDSP population.

This project aims to prevent the extinction of giant armadillos in the Atlantic Forest by identifying fragments surrounding the protected area of the state park where the species is present and work with local stakeholders to ensure protection of both the species, the habitat as well as connectivity with the park. The project will also aim to promote co-existence between beekeepers and giant armadillos through a wildlife friendly certification scheme that will open new markets for the beekeepers’ products. Finally, the project will aim to promote giant armadillos as flagship species for biodiversity conservation so that the local human population surrounding the RDSP celebrates this unique species.

Header: Lucas Barreto (Right) and his team Barbara Calazans & Cimar Da Silva in front of a giant armadillo burrow in the Rio Doce State Park. © ICAS.

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