Giant armadillo, new research

This video is called Mammals of the World: Giant Armadillo.


On babies and motherhood: how giant armadillos are surprising scientists (photos)

Jeremy Hance

Uncovering the reproductive mysteries of the little-known giant armadillo.

Arguably the most important moment in any animal’s life— whether it be a whale, a human, or a mosquito— is the act of giving birth, of bringing a new member of the species into the world. It’s no wonder that biologists treat reproduction— from conception to birth to child-rearing— as vital not only for understanding an animal’s natural history, but also its conservation. While some species have had their reproduction studied ad nauseum (think pandas) we still know very little about how most species reproduce, including some large, charismatic mammals. Until ten years ago scientist’s knowledge of the reproductive habits of the giant armadillo— the world’s biggest— were basically regulated to speculation. But a long-term research project in the Brazilian Pantanal is changing that: last year researchers announced the first ever photos of a baby giant armadillo and have since recorded a second birth from another female.

The giant armadillo is the only member of the genus Priodontes and the largest member of the Xenarthra order (including anteaters and sloths) which goes back at least 65 million years. Despite its hefty bulk— weighing in at 50 kilograms (110 pounds)— the giant armadillo is notoriously difficult to observe. Its rarity, nocturnal habits, and burrowing lifestyle mean people who live in the area are often wholly ignorant they share the wilderness with these great, shelled beasts.

“After working in the field for eight years I still had never seen a giant armadillo,” said Arnaud Desbiez, the head of the Giant Armadillo Project in an interview with “Then one day my wife returned from an expedition in the field having seen one in her study area. I could not believe it! A few months later the owner of the ranch found a fresh carcass recently killed by a puma. I decided I wanted to try to learn more about this elusive species.”

Desbiez, a French native who has lived in the Pantanal for 14 years, started the Giant Armadillo Project in 2010. Since then his dedicated team have employed camera traps and radio tracking to unlock the hidden lives of giant armadillos.

What they found was amazing: for one thing giant armadillos are far more maternal than expected. Scientists had thought that giant armadillo babies only spent six weeks with their mother, but the project’s research discovered that in fact juveniles spend at least ten times that amount learning from their mother.

“We have not been able to determine exactly when it becomes fully independent. Although it starts exploring and foraging on its own after six months, it continues sharing a burrow with or near its mother for several more months,” explained Desbiez, who is also the Regional Coordinator for Latin America for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS).

The project has also discovered that gestation lasts five months instead of four and that giant armadillos give birth to only one young at a time, instead of usually two as long believed. This information has huge impacts on the conservation of the massive, relict species.

“Each birth requires an incredibly high investment from the mother and we suspect they have a young only once every two years. Population growth rates are therefore very low. This explains why the population density of giant armadillos is so low, and why this species can so easily go locally extinct,” Desbiez said, who added that the project is now trying to determine how many young a female giant armadillo could have in a lifetime.

The giant armadillo is currently categorized as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List and is imperiled by habitat loss and hunting.

“It feels like we have barely scratched the surface and we still have many more questions than answers,” noted Desbiez. “The question that intrigues me most is we still do not understand how these solitary creatures meet and interact. They have huge home ranges and overlap seems minimal. We believe communication is olfactory through scents left in the burrows and sand mounds.”

Desbiez said giant armadillos are not alone in the fact that researchers know very little about its most basic behaviors.

“The truth is only a few species have been the focus of long term studies and many endangered and even iconic species lack real studies,” he said. “The giant armadillo is only one among many species in South America about which we knew very little. I would blame this on an overall lack of funding for species research and conservation. There are so many species that need urgent attention and too few people able to dedicate their lives to them due to the scarcity of funds.”

Desbiez has received the bulk of his funding from zoological institutions, including the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which runs two zoos.

Soon, app for recognizing wild birds’ songs?

This video is called Some Brazilian birds and sounds.

From Queen Mary University in London, England:

Birdsongs automatically decoded by computer scientists

Scientists from Queen Mary University of London have found a successful way of identifying bird sounds from large audio collections, which could be useful for expert and amateur bird-watchers alike.

Thursday 17 July 2014


The analysis used recordings of individual birds and of dawn choruses to identify characteristics of bird sounds. It took advantage of large datasets of sound recordings provided by the British Library Sound Archive, and online sources such as the Dutch archive called Xeno Canto.

Publishing in the journal PeerJ, the authors describe an approach that combines feature-learning – an automatic analysis technique – and a classification algorithm, to create a system that can distinguish between which birds are present in a large dataset.

“Automatic classification of bird sounds is useful when trying to understand how many and what type of birds you might have in one location,” commented lead author Dr Dan Stowell from QMUL’s School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science and Centre for Digital Music.

Dr Stowell was recently awarded a prestigious five-year fellowship from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to develop computerised processes to detect multiple bird sounds in large sets of audio recordings.

Birdsong has a lot in common with human language, even though it evolved separately. For example, many songbirds go through similar stages of vocal learning as we do, as they grow up, which makes them interesting to study. From them we can understand more about how human language evolved and social organisation in animal groups,” said Dr Stowell.

He added: “The attraction of fully automatic analysis is that we can create a really large evidence base to address these big questions.”

The classification system created by the authors performed well in a public contest using a set of thousands of recordings with over 500 bird species from Brazil. The system was regarded as the best-performing audio only classifier, and placed second overall out of entries from 10 research groups in the competition.

The researchers hope to drill down into more detail for their next project.

Dr Stowell says: “I’m working on techniques that can transcribe all the bird sounds in an audio scene: not just who is talking, but when, in response to whom, and what relationships are reflected in the sound, for example who is dominating the conversation.”

Want to know more? Read the paper.

Brazil to football World Cup quarter finals, congratulations!

This video is called Brazil Wildlife National Geographic Episode 1.

The Brazilian football team has proceeded to the quarter finals of the World Cup, as they were better at taking penalty kicks than Chile, after one goal each in regular playing time. Congratulations, with this video about Brazilian wildlife.

Brazil loses 7-1 against Germany: here.

Mick Jagger a bad psychic on World Cup football

This video is called Brazil World Cup 2014 Psychic Animals: Get ready for beastly prediction.

The ‘psychic’ abilities of humans to predict the future most often turn out not to work. Similarly so with ‘psychic’ animals predicting results of football matches. With one exception: Paul the octopus, with 11 out of 13 predictions correct (it is mathematically predictable that among so many failures there would be one animal getting most match results right). Chicito the fortune-telling toucan so far in the 2014 World Cup got two results right, one wrong.

This music video is called The Rolling Stones – Satisfaction (live).

From Associated Press:

Brazil Mocks Mick Jagger‘s World Cup Flop Picks

RIO DE JANEIRO — Jun 24, 2014, 8:01 PM ET


The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger can’t get no soccer satisfaction.

In what’s becoming something of a modern World Cup tradition, Brazilians are closely following every team the 70-year-old rock star supports with an eye at mocking him for apparently casting bad spells on his picks.

Italy was the latest victim of what local media have taken to calling Jagger’s “pe frio” — a term describing the bad luck that he brings teams that translates literally as “cold foot.”

At a concert in Rome on Saturday night, Jagger predicted to 70,000 fans that four-time World Cup champion Italy would pull off a clutch victory over Uruguay to advance to the knockout phase. The Italians lost 1-0 Tuesday and were headed home after the tournament’s first round.

At a show in Lisbon in May, the singer predicted that Portugal, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, the game’s top player heading into the World Cup, would win it all at the monthlong tournament in Brazil. Portugal is on the brink of elimination after failing to win in its first two group matches.

Earlier in the World Cup, Jagger suffered some good-hearted ridicule after taking to Twitter on June 19 to urge on his native England in a game, also with Uruguay. “Let’s go England! This is the one to win!!,” he wrote. England lost.

While Brazilians may laugh at Jagger, they love his music. The Stones’ 2006 concert on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro drew an estimated 1 million people, a lot more than the 20,000 or so that pack the beach now to watch World Cup games on a giant screen.

Jagger also loves Brazilians, having fathered one 15 years ago with former Brazilian model Luciana Gimenez.

Brazilians’ obsession with Jagger’s soccer insights, or lack thereof, began four years ago at the World Cup in South Africa. Searching for an explanation for their country’s stunning quarterfinal loss to the Netherlands, Brazil’s fans settled on Jagger, who showed up at the stadium accompanying his son dressed in a Brazilian jersey.

Earlier in that tournament, he had already earned a reputation for losing picks by showing up in the stands with Bill Clinton to cheer on the United States, which lost to Ghana in the second round, and then a day later watched as England was trounced by Germany 4-1.

Whether Jagger tempts fate and offers up another prediction this World Cup is anyone’s guess.

But if he does, Brazilians are begging it’s not for them. Within hours of Italy’s defeat Tuesday, social media was buzzing with pleas for the rocker to keep quiet, or better yet, lend his reverse rabbit’s foot to the country’s despised rival, Argentina.


Associated Press writer Ana Santos contributed to this report.

Toucan predicts Dutch team will win against Spain

According to this toco toucan from Rotterdam zoo in the Netherlands, the Dutch football team will win today’s World Cup game in Brazil against Spain.

At half time, this was not true yet. Both teams one goal each.

The beautiful Dutch goal, by Robin van Persie, is on video here.

UPDATE: toucan Chicito was right; 5-1 for the Netherlands against reigning world champions Spain.

Football World Cup, Dutch and Spanish fans’ songs, and history

This music video from the Netherlands is the song De Zilvervloot (starting about 0:30 after the start of the video). It is a nineteenth century song about seventeenth century Dutch admiral Piet Hein, who captured the treasure fleet with the silver being transported from South America to Spain in 1628.

Tonight in Brazil, the 2014 football world cup will start with a match between the host country and Croatia. Tomorrow, Spain, one of the favourite teams, and the Netherlands, not one of the favourite teams, will play each other. One of the songs Dutch fans will sing probably then is De Zilvervloot, about Piet Hein.

The subject of the song is from the time when the Dutch Republic was at war to become independent from the Spanish monarchy. Fortunately, today Spain and the Netherlands don’t wage war against each other; they just play football. There is more chance of worsening conflict between Spain and Britain about Gibraltar; and between the Spanish monarchy plus political establishment and most Spanish people who want a choice between monarchy and republic in a referendum.

The Dutch-Spanish 1568-1648 war, the eighty years war, is remembered much more often in the Netherlands than in Spain.

One reason why quite some Spaniards still remember that war is famous seventeenth century painter Diego Velázquez.

This video, in Spanish is called Las Lanzas (La Rencición de Breda), about a famous Velázquez painting.

The painting is known in English as The Surrender of Breda. Its subject is the conquest of the Dutch city Breda by Genoese-Spanish general Ambrogio Spinola, in 1625. Velázquez finished the painting in 1635. Two years later, in 1637, Breda was recaptured by the Dutch republic, and in 1648 it was finally ceded by Spain by the Treaty of Westphalia.

Back from war and painting to football and music. Spanish football teams, like teams in other countries, sometimes have musicians among their fans in stadiums. One of the songs they play is Valencia.

This music video is Valencia, by composer Padilla. Like the Dutch Zilvervloot song, played in a concert hall; not on football bleachers.

In Valencia city there is also a well-known football club, with a bat in its coat of arms.

Coat of arms of Valencia with bat

The city has also a bat in its coat of arms.

According to legend, the bat is in the coat of arms because a bat helped a medieval king of Aragon win a battle. Which reminds me of a Central American Mayan legend about the resplendent quetzal bird.

Which takes me back to Costa Rica; also one of the football teams present at the World Cup in Brazil.

World Cup: Africa Firmly Behind Its Teams: here.

Saving Brazil’s Atlantic forests

This video is called Brazilian Atlantic Forest.

From BirdLife:

SAVE Brasil recognised for over a decade of work to save Atlantic forest

By Shaun Hurrell, Fri, 06/06/2014 – 12:20

The Atlantic forest of South America could merit an award for many reasons. An award for being an outstanding biological centre of endemism – so many unique animals and plants in one area. Or an award for being one of the top five ‘hotspots’ for biodiversity conservation in the world despite not receiving as much public attention as its neighbouring Amazon. Or an award for still managing to survive as a biological area after suffering extensive logging and degradation – only 7% of original Atlantic forest remains.

Prêmio Muriqui is an award not for the forest itself but for the people and organisations in Brazil that are helping with its survival. SAVE Brasil (our BirdLife Partner in Brazil) have won this year’s prize, recognition for over a decade of conservation work to protect the remaining fragments of Atlantic forest. The award is recognised as one of the most important tributes to environmental actions in Brazil.

This year SAVE Brasil celebrates its 10th anniversary and this award is great public recognition marking this date. It has been 14 years of work, 10 of which as SAVE Brasil and four as a Programme of BirdLife international, from a cohesive, dedicated and committed team.

SAVE Brasil was created with the mission: “To preserve birds and natural environments for a healthy planet for current and future generations.”

One example is SAVE’s work to conserve the Atlantic Forest at Serra do Urubu in Pernambucu State since 2004. Just 2% of Pernambucu’s Atlantic Forest survives, which is recognised by BirdLife as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA). It is home to at least 20 other endemic species from the Atlantic Forest slopes of Alagoas and Pernambuco, several of them new to science. Most endemic birds from this region are considered threatened with extinction.

SAVE Brasil’s strategy for the long-term restoration of the forests of the Serra do Urubu region includes developing agro-forestry systems which help rebuild forest connectivity and reduce the pressure for timber and charcoal from the remaining forest patches. To ensure long-term conservation, local people have received on-the-job training and are qualified to undertake forest restoration activities elsewhere.

Prêmio Muriqui is granted by the Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve Council (which is part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves) to public or private institutions that stand out in their work for biodiversity protection, sustainable development and dissemination of traditional and scientific knowledge.

“Despite these achievements, we consider that there is the need for permanent action towards environmental preservation in the country,”

said Jaqueline Goerck, Executive Director of SAVE Brasil.

“Thus, SAVE Brasil restates its commitment to promote actions for the conservation of other areas in the country and the protection of birds in critical situation of endangerment.”

More information: Saving Atlantic forest in Brazil and Paraguay

Serra do Uruba, Brazil – Forest of Hope site

Football World Cup, wildlife and music

This video says about itself:

“I’m Alive” Brasil: The Floresta da Tijuca Sessions

21 April 2014

In a unique collaboration produced by Andres Levin, world-renowned musical artists Caetano Veloso and Lenine, Criolo, Emicida, Pretinho da Serrinha and Sistah Mo Respect along with many other celebrated Brasilian musicians and filmmakers spent three days in Rio de Janeiro‘s Floresta da Tijuca, part of Parque Nacional da Tijuca (that supported the project by offering its landscapes to film) creating “I’m Alive” a multimedia expression of our relationship to nature filmed, composed and recorded in the rainforest.

From the Frog Blog:

The Rainforest Alliance World Cup

Posted on June 5, 2014 by Rainforest Alliance

With just a week until the World Cup begins, the world’s interest in all things Brazilian has reached a fever pitch. Here at the Rainforest Alliance, we’re dedicating our coverage to the love of the game, with our own little twist.

Throughout the tournament, we’ll take a look at the countries in each group—and what they bring to the game in terms of agriculture, forestry, tourism, environment and biodiversity—through the eyes of our little green frog. Watch this space for match analyses, a dedicated Rainforest Alliance head-to-head challenge, an environmental league table, and plenty of stories about our work to protect the diverse communities and precious ecosystems of host nation and World Cup giant, Brazil.

The official slogan of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brasil is All in One Rhythm—a theme we couldn’t love more in light of our recent I’m Alive Brasil music film, conceived of and led by GRAMMY® Award-winning producer Andres Levin of Content-OS, who directed and produced the film alongside Paula Lavigne and Fernando Young. “I’m Alive” features world-renowned Brazilian recording artists Caetano Veloso and Lenine, Criolo, Emicida Pretinho da Serrinha, along with many other celebrated Brazilian musicians who came together in Rio de Janeiro’s Floresta da Tijuca to create this unique experience in music, environmental awareness and cinema. Watch here and be inspired by the beautiful spirit of Brazil.

And make sure to check out Monday’s Frog Blog, where we’ll be presenting the countries in Groups A and B.

IRAN should be celebrating their fourth World Cup but the controversy surrounding their nuclear programme led to teams refusing to travel to play them in friendlies for fear of political sanctions. Because of this, manager Carlos Queiroz managed to persuade the Iranian football federation to bring forward the end of the domestic season to April in order to prepare for the tournament: here.

Nigeria can complete an international competition double when they head to Brazil as they aim to add the World Cup to their African Nations triumph last year. After stuttering in the early stages of qualification they eased past Ethiopia to book their place at the finals but many consider the Super Eagles as rank outsiders to become the first African nation to lift the trophy: here.

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Christian fundamentalists ban women from seeing football World Cup

Dutch, Brazilian female football fans, ANP photo

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Women not welcome at Spain vs. The Netherlands football match

That is the first match of the Dutch national team at the World Cup tournament in Brazil; on 13 June.

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

As a woman, you would like to watch with your husband the first match of the Dutch team [in Brazil]? That will not work in Veenendaal. At least, not if you were planning to see it in the big sports hall, local broadcasters RTV Utrecht report.

The organization of the event, the Christian ManUnited, has deliberately chosen to exclude women. ManUnited is exclusively for men. The organization was looking for an event where many men can get together. The World Cup matches are such a perfect opportunity.

A total of 1500 men can watch the game against Spain in the sports hall, on the big screen. The organization hopes that especially fathers with sons will attend the event.

I hope that many fathers and sons, along with women, will speak out against this sexism against mothers and daughters.

Besides these sexist religious fundamentalists, there are also ultra-fundamentalists, who say that watching TV is satanic. And ultra-fundamentalists, who say that football is satanic. Sarcastically, one might say that these ultra-fundamentalists, though sexist in many other ways, at least don’t discriminate against women in this; as they want to ban both men and women from seeing the football World Cup.

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