Giant Armadillo (Brazil)


Giant Armadillo

The giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus) is the largest of the armadillo species and can reach up to 150 cm and weigh up to 50 kilograms. Although giant armadillos range over much of South America little is known about them and most information is anecdotal.  Due to its cryptic behaviour and low population densities, this animal is very rarely seen.  The giant armadillo is threatened with extinction and is currently classified as Vulnerable (A2cd) by the IUCN/SSC Red List of Threatened Species. The species is listed on Appendix I of CITES (CITES, 2005). In Brazil, the species is classified as “Critically Endangered” in many State lists.

This project is successfully establishing the first long-term ecological study of giant armadillos in the Brazilian Pantanal wetland. The project was initiated in June 2011 and has received funds every year from Natural Research since 2012.

The main goals of the project are:

  •  Research: To investigate the ecology and biology of giant armadillos and understand their function in the ecosystem.
  •  Research: Expand the research to other Xenarthra
  •  Capacity Building: Offer training to national scientists in conservation biology
  •  Education and Outreach: To make giant armadillos ambassadors for biodiversity conservation

Project methods include radio transmitters, camera traps, burrow surveys, resource monitoring, resource mapping and interviews. Project methodologies have been tested successfully, staff trained and many excellent preliminary results obtained. This includes documenting the role of giant armadillos as Ecosystem engineers, preliminary home ranges and habitat selection results, new details on their diet and reproduction.  The project expanded to other Xenarthrans. In 2012 epidemiological study was extended to the other three species of armadillos in the study area and an ecological study on the Southern naked tail armadillo (Cabassous unicinctus) started. In 2013 a pilot ecological study of giant anteaters (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) and nine banded armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus) was successfully initiated.

In 2014, work will continue in the Pantanal, but we will begin exploring potential new sites to expand the project to the neighboring Cerrado biome. We will continue liaising with national and international media, publishing both scientific and mainstream publications, offer training to Brazilian nationals, welcome visitors to our field site, continue integrating the project to local and national initiatives and continue liaising with local and national authorities on project results and implications. 

This project is a partnership between a Scottish charity (the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland) a Brazilian NGO (IPÊ - Institute for Ecological Research), and a private cattle ranch (Baía das Pedras).

The project depends entirely on conservation grants mostly from American and European zoos as well as some foundations. For more information please visit

 For a look at how the project is expanding please use this link Armadillo Concept paper.pdf

Arnaud and his team kindly put together a special video for NR this can be found at the  top of the page.

Project Updates

                  >      Giant Armadillo Update May 2019

                   >     Giant Armadillo Project Update September 2018

                 >       Giant Armadillo Project Update December 2018


 An article about the project is out on the BBC Earth and can be found at

We are thrilled to announce Dr Desbiez was awarded the Whitely award Whitley Awards 2015.pdf

Photographs and a short video narrated by David Attenborough can be found here

The photos in the gallery below have been supplied by Dr. Desbiez and photographer Kevin Schafer.

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