More than just a mascot – Armadillo ball


With the 2014 FIFA World Cup kick off just hours away there’s much speculation as to how well this year’s hosts (Brazil) are going to pull it off.  I’m not a huge fan of football but I do enjoy watching grand scale international events of this caliber for the simple fact that I get to witness a variety of cultures.

Being the largest single sporting event on earth the FIFA World Cup would undoubtedly have a massive impact on the environment (both positive and negative)!   However FIFA and the Government of Brazil have taken certain steps to ensure that minimal damage is done to the environment.

On the large scale, two of the stadia are solar-powered and all match venues meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. A new waste management law has been passed and this aims to sort waste from recyclables using local unskilled workers. The Organizing Committee has even partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme to release a ‘Green Passport’ app that gives tips to spectators on how to minimize their impact during the World Cup. Vendors at the event will be selling organic food in their stalls.

This year’s mascot is also expected to play an active role in creating awareness on environmental conservation. Fuleco (originating from the Spanish words for football and ecology) was inspired by an endangered three-banded armadillo (Tolypeutes tricinctus) found only in Brazil.

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The increased interest in the species surrounding the World Cup has finally made the Brazilian Government to draw up an official conservation plan which includes the creation of two protected areas. FIFA will contribute some of its revenue from the World Cup to this project.

Known locally as the “tatu bola” or “armadillo ball”, it protects itself by rolling its flexible armour into an almost perfect and impenetrable ball when threatened. (This makes it even more appealing to be used as a mascot for this event!)

A three-band armadillo comes out of its football-like defensive position at the zoo in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photograph: Marcelo Sayao/EPA
A three-band armadillo comes out of its football-like defensive position at the zoo in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photograph: Marcelo Sayao/EPA

Loss of habitat is the main threat to their existence. The Brazilian three-banded armadillo is found in Caatinga, a dry forest region which is suffering intense deforestation as it is a source of fuelwood. Another reason why this species is endangered is because it produces only a single offspring each year. As a result populations show a rather slow growth rate.

So as we get ready to watch the 2014 FIFA World Cup here’s hoping there’ll be enough awareness raised, not only on the importance of conserving the Brazilian three-banded armadillo, but the whole environment in general.

Photograph: Silvia Izquierdo/AP
Photograph: Silvia Izquierdo/AP