A female, southern three-banded armadillo was born in February. The three-banded armadillo, also called the bolita, is a little-known and endangered species. The little girl is Hermione and Denver's third pup. She has been showing herself to her caregivers for just a few days. Meet the youngest inhabitant of the zoo!
On Friday morning - February 5, a zookeeper at the Wrocław zoo noticed a new "ball" in the armadillos’ enclosure. After a short observation, it was decided that the intervention was not needed, because the mother took care of the young. For the next weeks, the female hid her baby in various parts of the enclosure, moving it even several times a day. Now the small armadillo has grown enough to start exploring surroundings by herself.
- Just a week ago, the young armadillo began to come out of hiding. Of course, she stays close to her mother, and in moments of potential danger, she curls up into a perfect ball. We used this opportunity to examine the baby and determined she was a healthy girl- says Monika Górska, animal keeper from the Wrocław zoo.
The baby and her parents, a 7-year-old female Hermione born in Dresden and a 9-year-old male Denver from Wrocław, live behind the scenes, in one of the zoo's back rooms. Their neighbors include Bear couscouses and Alaotran lemurs, other little-known, endangered, and rare species.
The southern armadillo is one of the 20 species of armadillos. It is found in South America - Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay. It is one of the smaller species of armadillos - an adult individual reaches a height of 15 cm, body length of 30 cm, and a weight of 1.5 kg.
The most distinctive feature of every armadillo species is the skin armor made of bony plates, loosely connected for flexibility. It covers most of the body, except for the ears, belly, and the inner parts of the legs, where hair grows profusely. The three main shields of the armor cover the head, torso, and tail. The number of armored bands on the torso identifies the different species. Interestingly, only the three-banded armadillo can roll itself into a complete ball. Bolita’s head is oblong but slightly different in each individual and as unique as human fingerprints. Scientists used this feature in field studies to identify observed individuals. Armadillos are very particular about their diet, and their menu includes mostly ants and termites. Not surprisingly, they have an extremely long, thin, and sticky tongue for snatching up insects. Another distinguishing feature of this species are claws on the hind feet- the third and fourth one look like hooves; the forefeet only have three claws. Surprisingly, this species is not the best digger, and it prefers to inhabit burrows dug up by other animals.
Armadillos lack fat stores except for some located along the dorsal armor, so they don’t cope well with cold weather and temperature fluctuations. Unfortunately, this results, among others, in limited range and population decline in nature.
Armadillos are secretive so we know little about them. It doesn't help that in South America they are still hunted for their meat and armor, which is used in handicrafts. Additionally, as a result of transforming wildlands into agricultural lands, there is a conflict between humans and armadillos. The most recent threat is poaching for private farms.
While the IUCN has elevated its status to “near threatened”, there are still too few conservation initiatives for the three-banded armadillo. It also doesn't help that the species is not protected under CITES, the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. This results in a lack of law regulating trade in this species, be it live animals or their body parts.