Arnaud Desbiez wins Whitley Award worth £35,000 presented by HRH Princess Royal‏

The Latin America Coordinator for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Dr Arnaud Desbiez, has been awarded the equivalent of a ‘green Oscar’ for his work on the RZSS Giant Armadillo Project.

Today, Wednesday 29 April, Frenchman Arnaud was announced as a winner of a Whitley Award by the Whitley Fund for Nature, a prestigious environmental prize worth £35,000 of funding, for his work to conserve the rarely sighted giant armadillo in Brazil.

HRH Princess Royal will present the award at a ceremony this evening at the Royal Geographical Society, London.

The Giant Armadillo Project was established in 2010 and prior to this the species, which has a status of Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, was poorly studied. Indeed, virtually nothing was known about the species’ reproduction before camera-traps were set up close to the den of a monitored female which has enabled scientists to observe and follow their behaviours. In 2012 the camera-trap captured the first ever photograph of a young giant armadillo and in 2013 the team managed to follow the birth and parental care of baby giant armadillo Alex with his mother. The team still continues following Alex to this day.

Dr Arnaud Desbiez, Latin America Coordinator for RZSS and based out in the Brazilian Pantanal, said: “I am honoured to receive this award and hope that it helps to raise awareness of the plight of the giant armadillo and the vital conservation work that is currently taking place. It is testament to the hard work of the team out in Brazil and the ten year support of conservation charity the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland who invest in individuals and initiatives like me.”

About RZSS’ Giant Armadillo Project:

  • The Giant Armadillo Project aims to establish the first long-term ecological study of giant armadillos in the Brazilian Pantanal wetland, and other Brazilian biomes in the future. The main goal of the project is to investigate the ecology and biology of the species and understand its function in the ecosystem using radio transmitters, camera traps, burrow surveys, resource monitoring, resource mapping and interviews.
  • The ecological study was the first to photograph a baby giant armadillo in 2012 and now to follow and observationally study the year of its life.
  • Dr Arnaud Desbiez is a conservation biologist who has been working in the Brazilian Pantanal since 2002. RZSS has been funding Arnaud’s work since 2005 he was made their Regional Conservation and Research Coordinator for Latin America in 2010.
  • Follow Arnaud’s video diaries from the Pantanal as he searches for the elusive Giant Armadillo at
  • The new information captured by the camera-trap is extremely important and demonstrates how rare, and how much care each baby giant armadillo requires. Females therefore produce very few young and each animal is extremely precious. This helps to explain why giant armadillos have become extinct in so many areas throughout their range – too few young are born and the removal of any individual has huge consequences on the population.


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