ARMADILLOS
Northern long-nosed armadillo
Dasypus sabanicola
RANGE

D. sabanicola is found throughout the Llanos (the flat plains) of Venezuela and Colombia. It has been recorded at elevations between 25 and 200 m asl (Eisenberg, 1989).


DESCRIPTION
HABITAT

The northern long-nosed armadillo is generally restricted to open or shrubland habitats in lowland and mid-altitude areas.

BIOLOGY

D. sabanicola is locally rare. It has been found to be moderately common in intact natural habitats. Animals have a home range of between 1.7 and 11.6 hectares (Ferguson-Laguna, 1984). The female gives birth to one yearly litter of four young.

THREATS

This species is threatened by intense (subsistence) hunting in Venezuela (Ferguson-Laguna 1984). It is the armadillo species that is most sought after by hunters in the llanos of Colombia (Trujillo and Superina 2013). In addition, the species is affected by land conversion for agro-industry farming (mainly rice, soy and corn), timber plantations, and palm oil plantations.
Estimates from the Orinoquia region of Colombia suggest that approximately 10% of the natural habitat of this species is subjected to land use change every year. The area used for oil palm, rice, timber, soy, and corn plantations in the Orinoquia region is projected to increase more than ten-fold over the next decade, especially due to a significant increase in biofuel and timber production (Aristizábal et al. 2000, Dishington 2007, Fedearroz 2008, IAvH 2009, CRECE 2010, Fedepalma 2008, 2012; Dombro in press), which calls for an urgent assessment of the potential effects on the D. sabanicola population. Although the tolerance of this small armadillo to modified habitats has not been studied to date, reports from locals suggest that it does survive in areas with extensive cattle ranching, but that subpopulations have declined or even disappeared from cultivated areas. It is probable that the species cannot survive in cultivated areas in which agrochemicals are used for insect control, as they severely reduce the availability of the main food source of D. sabanicola.

CONSERVATION

Dasypus sabanicola is restricted to the floodplains (llanos) of Colombia and Venezuela, an ecosystem that is severely affected by habitat conversion for biofuel production, timber plantations, and agro-industry farming. This impact is expected to increase significantly over the next decade. The use of agrochemicals is severely reducing the availability of insects—the main food source of D. sabanicola—thus further affecting the population. Furthermore, there is evidence of severe hunting in several parts of its range, and it is the armadillo species that is most sought after by hunters in the llanos of Colombia. In Colombia, locals have reported a reduction in sightings of this species, but due to a lack of fieldwork, the population decline is difficult to quantify.
The factors affecting the Northern Long-nosed Armadillo warrant a precautionary assessment of Near Threatened, as it almost qualifies for listing under criteria A2cd and A3cd due to declines in habitat quality and quantity, as well due to estimated levels of exploitation, over three generations (suspected to be around 12 years). Among others, estimates suggest that about 10% of its natural habitat are subjected to land use change per year, and projections indicate that the area used for biofuel, timber and food production in the range of this species will increase more than ten-fold over the next decade. However, a reassessment is recommended as soon as additional information becomes available. 

REFERENCES

Additional information and a complete list of references can be found in: Abba, A.M. and M. Superina (2010): The 2009/2010 Armadillo Red List Assessment. Edentata 11(2): 135-184. This article is available here. For information about the latest assessment of this species, please visit The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

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