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Jessi shares Gaia the 3 banded armadillo's story, who she shares her home with, and what some of ther favorite things to do are.

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Welcome back to Animal Wonders.  I'm Jessi, and for those of you just joining our channel, we're a small exotic animal outreach organization.  We rescue displaced wild animals, provide them a life-long home, and allow them to become ambassadors for their species through live public presentations.  Today, I want to share one of our really special animals.  They get the most interesting responses from audiences and they have incredible adaptations.  I'd like to talk about Gaia, our three banded armadillo.  


Gaia came to Animal Wonders in September 2014.  She was smaller than an adult but bigger than a baby, so we were guessing around a year old, so that puts her between four and five years old.  She was taken in by an animal facility in Southern California after she was abandoned by her previous owners.  She had been illegally purchased and kept by a small restaurant as a mascot for the FIFA World Cup.  The World Cup was promoting the Brazilian three banded armadillo to raise awareness for the endangered species, but Gaia is a southern three banded armadillo and this species is frequently kept in zoos so it was readily available.  The restaurant was using her to bring in patrons.  Once the World Cup ended, they no longer wanted her.

A friend recommended Animal Wonders for placement and we were contacted asking if we could provide a home for her, and we said yes.  We felt confident we could care for her because her species doesn't burrow.  If she was a six banded or nine banded armadillo, we'd need to offer her plenty of substrate to dig in. 

When she first arrived at Animal Wonders, she was quite nervous about us and she would startle at any new sound.  If we touched her, she would curl up.  We needed to earn her trust, and it took about a month before she really got to know my scent and knew I wasn't going to harm her.  Every time she uncurled, I'd give her a treat and she would even let me pet her belly.  She became very curious and she would even let others hold her if I was near.

A year passed and she matured into an adult.  She became much more wary of new things.  She won't unroll for strangers, even with me there, and it takes a bit longer for her to unroll for me, but she still does.  One of the big changes is that she will not let me touch her belly.  This was an abrupt change and I figured it out one day when we were at a school event and I noticed a red fuzzy thing on her belly fur and I reached in to pick it off.  I must have startled her, because she closed on finger and she kept me trapped for seven minutes.  I guess it would have been fine but she was also scratching my finger with her giant claws.  Every time I moved my finger to get out, she'd close harder and scratch me some more, but it wasn't her fault. 

Wild animals have instincts that help them survive.  When you work with wild animals, it's always your fault when you get hurt.  It's a good story to share because it's an example of how wild animals don't make good pets for most people.  I don't get upset with Gaia when her instincts kick in.  I respect that I made a mistake and I marvel at her survival instincts.  

Gaia does enjoy getting outside and digging a bit in the dirt looking for things to eat.  She likes insects the most, but she also eats a small amount of root vegetables and occasionally fruit.  We've offered her many different kinds of enrichment, including dirt and sand boxes, shredded paper, straw, woven grass mats, balls, stuffed animal toys, and blankets.  Her favorites by far are big billowy blankets and straw.  We had a combination of the two a couple years ago and when I came in in the morning, Gaia's nocturnal, so she was up all night and she had wrapped her blankets in a bundle.  When I uncurled it, I found her in the middle, surrounded by all the straw.  She had somehow gotten all the straw to the inside of the blanket and then wrapped it all up.  How did she get it inside?  Did she build it from the inside or the outside and then crawl in?  From then on, she's always had a blanket or two.

Gaia is a solitary species, so she would not enjoy a companion, but she does live with another animal.  This is her home that she shares with Mimi the marmoset.  The two don't interact much since marmosets are diurnal and Gaia is nocturnal.  You can see her super cozy little den box where she likes to bundle up into her blankets.  My favorite feature is the pee-proof top because Mimi the marmoset pees on her shelves and then rubs her hands in it so she can spread the smelly stuff all around everything she touches.  Gaia shouldn't complain about Mimi's stink, because armadillos come with their own unique scent as well.  My favorite thing to ask people who meet her is what they think she smells like.  I wish you could smell her, but because you can't, I'll do it for you.  I kinda like how she smells.  I mean, it's not a good smell, but it's not terrible.  It's kind of like an old baseball mitt mixed with cooked buttered corn but also a bit like stinky feet and locker room.

I'm happy that we're able to give Gaia a good home where she's safe, healthy, and happy.  Gaia does enjoy ripping apart stuffed animals and woven grass mats, so she goes through toys pretty quickly.  If you'd like to give her a gift that she can have fun destroying, you can go to our Amazon Wishlist, and the link is below.  

Thanks for letting me share Gaia the three banded armadillo with you.  If you'd like to meet more of our animal ambassadors or have fun learning about animals with us, subscribe to our YouTube channel AnimalWondersMontana and we'll see you next week and every week.