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Armadillo, football hero

By: Daniele Souza

Fuleco

Fuleco

You may have heard about Fuleco, the official mascot of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. People chose the name, a combination of the words "football" and "ecology," in Portuguese. Fuleco was inspired by a native Brazilian animal, the three-banded armadillo, one of eleven species of armadillos in Brazil. Find out more about it below.

The scientific name for the three-banded armadillo is Tolypeutes tricinctus. It is known in Brazil as "ball," "ball-armadillo" and other funny nicknames because it can roll up into a ball when feeling threatened.

The three-banded armadillo lives in the Caatinga ecoregion and some Cerrado areas, in the states of Ceará, Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, Goiás, Tocantins and Pernambuco. It does not dig holes and only uses abandoned burrows.

It is a nocturnal mammal that likes eating spiders, fruit and even sand, although it likes ants and termites especially. It can grow to 50cm (20 inches) and weigh as much as 1.2kg (2.7 pounds).

During breeding season, females mate with more than one male, and the babies are born completely formed. Usually, females give birth to just one baby, but they may, sometimes, have two.

Protection

The habit of rolling up into a ball and just stay still helps it protecting against predators. However, deforestation, slash and burn forest clearings, the expansion of agricultural areas and hunting (above all) have been threatening the survival of the species.

The three-banded armadillo is currently on the National List of Threatened Brazilian Animals, created by the Ministry of the Environment as an attempt to preserve the Brazilian biodiversity. The animal is also listed as "vulnerable," which means it is under a high risk of being extinct in nature, in the classification used by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The Caatinga Association, the organization responsible for the campaign for the three-banded armadillo to be the mascot of the 2014 World Cup, has been managing the Three-Band Armadillo Conservation Project together with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and experts from the IUCN.

Sources:

Associação Caatinga

See also

ICMBio - Livro vermelho

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