Monday, January 7, 2013

Rustle, the Nine-banded Armadillo

Rustle, the Nine-banded Armadillo, has quickly found a way into my heart and has become one of my favorite animals at WBS.  Over this last year I have come to know and love this little 9 lb wonder of an animal.

It all started last fall when I let him get some time out of his enclosure.  He started digging at another animal’s water bottle, so I gave him some water, thinking he was thirsty.  This is when it all started.  He dumped the water all over the floor and created his own slip and slide.  Then he proceeded to roll like crazy in the water. 

Following his lead, we began to provide Rustle with his own water tub in which to take a daily bath.  This behavior and his fun in the water led to a You Tube video that has made Rustle famous-- even in Japan!  We have also discovered his love for warm water.  When you get him out for his daily run he is usually sleepy and if you set him in the water he will rest in the water with all four feet stretched out, like having his own warm water spa.

Since Rustle runs daily we have worked very hard on handling him and just making him very comfortable around people.  He loves his run time and explores shoes, bags left on the floor, a jacket he can pull down to the floor, etc.  Anything at ground level is something to be explored. 

For an animal that does not see very well Rustle definitely knows where and when to be present.  If a cabinet opens in the animal food prep room he is there in a heartbeat, especially if it contains towels.  If a refrigerator door opens he is ready to jump in.  Rustle loves his produce--tomatoes, watermelon, bell peppers, grapes, peaches, and will try anything he is given and quickly makes a mess with it.

When Rustle is out and about for his daily run we often use a scrub brush that we stroke his back with.  As he gets his back scratched with the brush Rustle’s tail actually wags, like a dog.  It is very cute and makes us smile every time we see this behavior--who knew? 

One day while he was out running, Rustle started pushing around the plastic lid to our trashcan, so I placed it on top of him.  He was not afraid of this, and in fact ran around with it on his back for some time, came out, then worked very hard at getting back under the lid.  Now, when placing the lid on the floor, Rustle can get under it within a matter of seconds.  He will run around with the trash can lid on his back for 30 or more minutes when you let him.  Who knew a trashcan lid was so entertaining?

Rustle recently did his first display at the St. Louis Science Center and demonstrated many of these fun characteristics.  He continues to educate his trainers on the amazing behaviors that Armadillos can exhibit.

Submitted by Cathy Spahn, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

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