Would you like an Armadillo for Christmas? Yesterday we were driving close by an indigenous village in the Formosa province of Argentina and noticed a little girl holding a baby Armadillo in her hands, she was very happy.
We stopped and asked her how and why she had the baby armadillo.
She said she and a friend had found two of the animals hiding under a bush and had brought them home to play with for Christmas. They were keeping them in a little pen on the ground, but said that the animals kept burrowing hard, making tunnels to escape.
Armadillos like all animals, are having a hard time of it these days. Their habitat is shrinking and many are killed on roads. We asked if we could buy the baby armadillos and she said we would have to speak to her brother. In poor village communities animals like this do have a value. They can be eaten, tasting a little like chicken and some armadillo shells are used as musical instruments.
Eventually her brother appeared and we negotiated to buy the animals for the equivalent of $20. The brother said that the money would be really useful for the family, helping them to buy rice,milk powder, sugar and something special for Christmas, like meat. The two girls seemed unconcerned, even happy, smiling all the time.
We released the two armadillos some distance from the village and as the two animals scuttled away to freedom we reflected on the number of lucky children around the world who would be surrounded with expensive presents this Christmas. How many of these children would be happy to only have two dusty, muddy animals to play with and how many children would be happy to see their Christmas presents sold to buy a Christmas meal.
The two little girls we had left behind wouldn’t have many presents but they would have a good meal.
Most importantly they seemed happy and as we drove out of the village, through the hazy dust were two smiley faces waving madly to us, but would you like an Armadillo for Christmas?