Tatu is a southern three-banded armadillo (Tolypeutes matacus). She was born on April 19, 2017 at the Frank Buck Zoo and arrived at the El Paso Zoo when she was just four months old. All of her keepers just love taking care of her and our Education Team will often include her at animal encounters as part of our Zoo Adventure Programs and public programs in the Wildlife Amphitheater.
Mammalogists currently recognize 20 species of armadillos. They are the only mammals covered by a shell and are known only to North and South America where they are part of the superorder Xenarthra, along with the anteaters and sloths. One of the unique characteristics of the three-banded armadillo is how it is the only species of armadillo that can completely roll itself up into a ball.
Here is Tatu on my office desk. She obviously was not interested in going out of her way for a photo shoot.
In the United States we have the nine-banded armadillo found in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and southeast Kansas southeastward to Georgia and most of Florida. and south into Mexico, Central America, and South America. Armadillos have been expanding their range. There are records for El Paso County, but it is hard to say for sure if they are animals that have moved into the area or have been released by people who have caught them in the eastern part of the state and let them go here.
Three-banded armadillos are from in eastern Bolivia, southwestern Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. You can learn more about them by watching this short video with Zoo Keeper Prentice.
Rick LoBello, Education Curator
cover by Josh Moore, Wikimedia Creative Commons