ARMADILLOS
Pichi
Zaedyus pichiy
RANGE

The pichi has the southernmost distribution of all xenarthrans. It can be found in central and southern Argentina and Chile, as far south as the Straits of Magellan. It occurs from sea level to 2,500 m asl.


DESCRIPTION

Pichis are small, hairy armadillos that can be distinguished from other species by their sharply pointed carapace border and short ears. Their carapace color varies from light yellow to almost black, with a light dorsal line. Adults weigh approximately 1 kg.

HABITAT

This species is found in xeric grasslands and shrublands, as well as Patagonian steppe habitats, always with sandy soils (including volcanic soil; Superina, 2008). It can be found in some degraded habitats.

BIOLOGY

Pichis are solitary animals that have a relatively large home range within their arid habitat. Both genders reach maturity at nine months of age, and the female gives birth to one yearly litter of one or two young after a gestation length of 60 days (Superina and Jahn, 2009; Superina et al., 2009a). They are the only known xenarthra species that can enter hibernation in winter. They can also enter daily torpor, a short and shallow version of hibernation (Superina and Boily, 2007).
Z. pichiy is not abundant in southern Buenos Aires Province (A.M. Abba, pers. comm., 2004), and its abundance has declined in Mendoza Province within the last ten years (M. Superina, pers. comm., 2004). No data are available on the population size. However, a population reduction of 20% in the past ten years is probable.

THREATS

Pichis are threatened by hunting for food and sport, including hunting with dogs. An epidemic of an unknown disease has locally affected the species in some areas, and appears to be associated with rainy periods (Superina et al., 2009b). It is threatened to some degree by overgrazing of its habitat by cattle.

CONSERVATION

Z. pichiy is listed as Near Threatened because, although relatively widespread and present in a number of protected areas, it is hunted significantly, especially in northern and eastern portions of its range. Local extinctions have been recorded in some areas, although there is little known about the declines in the southern part of its range. Across its range, the species is thought likely to have undergone a decline on the order of 20% over the past ten years or so. It almost qualifies as Threatened under criterion A2d.
Z. pichiy is present in many protected areas, such as the National Parks Bosques Petrificados, Los Glaciares, Laguna Blanca, Lihué Calel, and Monte León. Hunting of this species in Argentina and Chile continues, even though this is prohibited.

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.


 


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