We have four southern three-banded armadillos at Edinburgh Zoo.
The southern three banded armadillo (Tolypeutes matacus) is commonly found from eastern Bolivia and south-western Brazil, south through to Paraguay, and Buenos Aires in Argentina.
They are one of the few armadillo species that are able to roll into a ball. The armour-plating that covers their body is divided into two domed shells, with three armoured bands in between, joined by stretchy bands of skin.
This allows the body to bend in the middle and allowing the lower edges of the two shells to form a ball. The bony plates covering the head and tail then neatly fitting together into a gap between the body shells closing it completely.
Unlike other armadillo species, they do not dig burrows, and usually take refuge in the abandoned burrows of other animals such as anteaters.
They have a varied diet, featuring invertebrates, including beetle larvae, ants, termites and fruits. When looking for ants and termites, they will probe the ground with their snout, force off tree bark, or tear into nests with their strong claws.
The southern three-banded armadillo has an interesting way of walking. It does so by walking on its hind-legs with the tips of the foreclaws touching the ground.
Due to the fact that they do not dig a burrow, and will roll into a ball when threatened, it is easier to hunt than other armadillo species, and therefore face a higher risk of hunting pressure. They are also threaten by the conversion of large amounts of its habitat into agricultural land. Therefore this species is declining, however they are found in a number of protected areas, which provide a refuge from the habitat destruction.
The Giant Armadillo Conservation Project
The southern three-banded armadillos at Edinburgh Zoo help us to tell our visitors about the conservation work RZSS is involved in. For example the Giant Armadillo Conservation Project is core funded by RZSS and established the first long term ecological study of giant armadillos in the Pantanal wetland. Click here to find out more about the Giant Armadillo Conservation Project...