Camera traps are proving to be the best way to see the vanishing giant armadillos (Priodontes maximus), which used to be all over South America, but are now quite elusive and vulnerable to extinction. Hardly anybody has bothered to examine the lives of the giant armadillo, so we don’t know how many are left, just that they’re becoming bush-meat, dying on the way to collectors and getting run out of their burrows by deforestation.
As unusual and rare as the giant armadillo is, it isn’t a chupacabra, yeti or Tasmanian tiger. Biologists know it survives. They’re just not sure how. It’s one of those animals that might be listed as more endangered–if data weren’t as scarce as the animal.
The IUCN Red List classifies as vulnerable. (From 1996 to 2006, it was endangered; I’m not sure how it got upgraded. A 2004 journal describes it as “vulnerable at the very least,” with a drop of 30-50% in the last few decades.) They don’t survive when the land is developed and don’t reproduce in captivity. Since they can weight up to 70 pounds, they’re popular with subsistence hunters.
Everywhere it is found, it is hunted for its wealth of meat, and for some indigenous peoples it is their primary source of protein. Despite its broad distribution, its actual occurrence is rareﬁed and sporadic from site to site….most likely to be found in the llanos of Guyana and the region surrounding the Chaco of Paraguay and Argentina…Virtually nothing is known of its reproductive parameters;
But even if it weren’t under assault, the giant armadillo gives animal tourists a high degree of difficulty. They refuse to live in a convenient hot spot. Instead, they are loners, spread over vast range of mostly remote jungle. They live in underground burrows. And they come out at night to eat ants.
But some have stumbled on them accidentally. A couple YouTube videos showcase the giant armadillo, captured either like the one here by chance. Or by going on a special expedition in Peru to track one into a burrow, like Michael Drake did as part of Forever Fauna.
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