Woodland Park Zoo’s three-banded armadillo is an important ambassador for her species. On April 20, Maria turned 25 years old. This milestone makes her the oldest living three-banded armadillo in zoos in North America. To celebrate her big day, Maria was treated to a festive birthday “cake” featuring her favorite treat: bugs!
Along with zookeepers, local Girl Scout troop 44261 created Maria’s birthday cake out of colorful cardboard, tissue paper and straws. “We wanted to do something special to commemorate her milestone birthday,” said Alyssa Borek, zookeeper at Woodland Park Zoo. “There’s a lot to celebrate, she’s a quarter of a century old, she’s the oldest three-banded armadillo in North America and she’s surpassed the life expectancy by almost 10 years.” Most armadillos live about 16 years.
Maria was born at San Antonio Zoo on April 20, 1991, and moved to Woodland Park Zoo in 2000. She currently lives in the grotto in the Day Exhibit with the Burmese Mountain tortoise. Maria is known for her expert architectural skills. “She builds amazingly deep and long burrows in the exhibit that are able to withstand the weight of a person walking over them,” said Borek.
Armadillo is a Spanish word meaning “little armored one”, referring to the bony plates that cover their back, head, legs and tail. Armadillos are the only living mammals that wear such shells, which protect them from predators and thorny vegetation. The three-banded armadillo is the only armadillo that can roll completely into a ball. Armadillos dig burrows and spent up to 16 hours a day asleep. They forage in the early morning and evening for beetles, ants, termites and other insects.