They are not worried about the importance of conservation, the importance of how quirquinchos’ loss will affect the environment.”. Some conservationists say that puts them in jeopardy. It lives in the Amazon basin and adjacent grasslands. They’re hard animals to capture and study, says Mariella Superina, an armadillo expert and chair of the Anteater, Sloth and Armadillo Specialist Group for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the global authority on the conservation status of wild animals and plants. Pacheco says Andean hairy armadillos aren’t sold openly in Oruro’s markets anymore, but if you want to buy an armadillo trinket for a few dollars, all you need do is ask around. For example, the Andean hairy armadillo is considered vulnerable because its population has declined by more than 30 percent in the past 10 years. Bolivia’s Congress is discussing two draft regulations to make the Andean hairy armadillo a national heritage animal, but, Rivera wrote in a Skype message, “If those projects were approved, they would not be very useful … There would be no additional protection.”. Other animals—snakes, rodents, spiders—rely on their burrows. In addition to being poached in Bolivia for cultural uses, Andean hairy armadillos face loss of habitat from land clearing for cultivation of quinoa. Giant armadillos are an endangered species The giant armadillo has lived on Earth since ancient times. In Bolivia, it’s illegal to hunt or trade Andean hairy armadillos, and in 2015, in an effort to stop poaching, it became illegal to sell or own a new armadillo rattle. As a part of her master’s degree research, Pacheco surveyed 165 Bolivians about their attitude toward the armadillos. Pacheco says that about 15 years ago when she was an undergraduate in biology at the University of San Simón, she began noticing that it was getting hard to see the armadillos in the wild. Armadillos prefer forested or semi-open habitats with loose textured soil that allows them to dig easily. They belong to the order Cingulata, family Dasypodidae. Armadillo-mania is contagious in the Lone Star State, as Texans, for no apparent reason, have adopted this armor-plated critter as their mascot. (When Bolivians hunt the armadillos for use as carnival objects, they catch them alive, then suffocate them so their faces and shells won’t be marred by wounds.). Most armadillos also eat plants, and some species — like the giant armadillo — can cause quite a bit of agricultural damage if they happen to wander into a farmer’s field. Due to the continent's former isolation, they were confined there for most of the Cenozoic. “If you want to still have armadillos in Bolivia, you need to protect the local populations. Many species of armadillo are endangered or threatened. Unfortunately, we face the risk of losing this species, which will gravely impoverish out planet's rich biodiversity. This isn’t the first time a study has changed an animal’s species designation: In 2016, one species of giraffe was split into four, and in 2017, one species of silky anteater devolved into seven. Mariella Superina, of the IUCN’s armadillo specialist group, was a co-author of the 2015 taxonomic study. This historic mammal has been considered an vulnerable species since 2002. © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society, © 2015- More than a century later, scientists have had second thoughts. The Andean hairy armadillo was first described as a separate species in 1894, based on the skin and fragmented skull of a young adult from the Oruro area housed in the Natural History Museum, in London, England. Walter Rivera, a lawyer who specializes in biodiversity and professor of environmental law at Central University of Ecuador, says Bolivia’s laws are outdated and that policymakers show little interest in animal conservation. They are most active at night, and have very poor eyesight. They have short, strong legs that are well suited to rapid digging, either for food or for shelter.