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Southern three-banded armadillo

Tolypeutes matacus

Female three-banded armadillo at Paignton Zoo
IUCN Conservation Status –
Least Concern
Extinct In The Wild
Class: Mammals
Order: Cingulata
Family: Chlamyphoridae

Our three-banded armadillo, Myrtle, lives in a mixed-species exhibit with the Goeldi’s monkeys and pygmy marmosets in Monkey Heights. She is nocturnal so can be a bit tricky to spot!

This species lives in the Grand Chaco: a huge area of tropical grassland that covers parts of Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil.

Armadillos have a long sticky tongue that they use to lap up insects, especially ants. They receive a special diet here and will eat small quantities of fruit and vegetables as well.

Interesting facts!

  • The word armadillo is derived from a Spanish word that means ‘little armoured one’. Their strong, bony shell protects them from predators, and the three-banded armadillo can even roll itself up into a ball with its head hidden safely in the middle if attacked!
  • They are great diggers and will often share burrows with other animals in the wild, although their strong claws mean they can dig their own ‘hidey hole’ if they need to.
  • After mating, females give birth to a single pup. A youngster is born blind with soft, leathery skin.


Armadillos are at risk from habitat loss as their grassland homes become used for agriculture. They are also hunted for food and their armoured shell is sometimes used to make tourist trinkets.