Crunchy on the Outside! Hairy Armadillo arrives to be weighed at London Zoo
Wednesday 12 May 2004
London Zoo is pleased to announce the arrival of a very special mammal. The hairy armadillo not only looks weird, being the only mammal with a shell but it is also becoming more and more endangered in the wild
Our new arrival is a young adult female called Heather. She is about a foot long and half a foot wide and weighs about 3.5kg. Her most easily recognisable feature is her banded shell. Thick hairs on the hairy armadillo project from the scales of this armour. The underside of both Heather's body and limbs are also covered with finer light brown hairs.
We hope to team Heather up with a mate as soon as possible, so she can become part of the European endangered species breeding programme.
All armadillos have shells made of bone,that cover their backs, this makes them quite inflexible. They rely on speed and digging ability to escape danger. As Armadillos are nocturnal, Heather's home is in Moonlight World* at London Zoo's small mammal house. Built to dig, they live in burrows and eat a wide variety of different foods, ranging from insects to plants. Many of them also eat bits of flesh from dead animals when they can find them. Some individuals have been seen killing small snakes by jumping on them, using the edge of the shell to cut them. They can cause quite a lot of damage to farmland and are hunted as an agricultural pest and for food. Armadillos are also suffering because they are the only non-primate that can contract Hansen's disease; a type of leprosy. As a result, sadly they are used widely for research.
There are twenty species of armadillo.
Their closest relatives are sloths and anteaters.
Armadillos generally live for about 30 years.
Hairy armadillos live in The Southern US and in Central South America.
The banded portion of the carapace has 18 bands or plates, 7/8 of which are movable.
The three banded armadillo is the only species of armadillo that can roll itself into a ball.
- Moonlight World is a special display of nocturnal animals that is dimly lit during the day so visitors can see them in action.
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