ORIGINAL ARTICLE BY: Janice Ryan, B.SC, Author, Writer, Former Zookeeper
PRINTED IN: The Wild Times, Spring 2017
The Edmonton Valley Zoo is home to a trio of three-banded armadillos, Twyla, Scarp and Rio, ages 14 to 15. They are part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) as their conservation status is vulnerable.
Armadillos have scutes, a natural armour of movable bony plates covering their back, head, legs and tail. Though there are 20 species of armadillos, the three-banded variety is the only one that can roll itself into a ball as a defense mechanism against predators. The others dig a hole and hunker down to protect their soft body parts.
Size: Smallest pink fairy armadillo is about 6 inches (15 m) long while giant armadillos reach 5 feet (1.5 meters).
Habitat: All live in Central and South America except for the nine-banded armadillo found in the southern United States.
Diet: Primarily insects caught with their long, sticky tongues; also eat plants, eggs, and small animals.
Behaviours: Solitary creatures but get together to mate or keep warm; sleep up to 16 hours a day in burrows when not foraging for food.
Offspring: Give birth to one pup in the birthing burrow; other species have up to 12.
Life expectancy: Up to 42 years; other species average four to 30 years.
Threats: Domestic dogs, wild cats, birds of prey and humans.