From squirrel to giant armadillo: Ceará has 8 terrestrial mammals ‘critically in danger’ of extinction; list – Ceará

Without most people from Ceará realizing it, life in the forests is progressively decreasing in the state. Giant armadillos and tapirs, for example, certainly no longer live here. The jaguar, the peccary, the giant anteater and the native sloth populations were probably also extinct.

And 4 other animals too can disappearas the Red List of Threatened Fauna of Ceará makes clear. The analysis comprises 126 terrestrial mammals present in the territory.

THE Northeast diary had exclusive access to the survey carried out in the Chief Scientist Program, of the Secretariat of the Environment of Ceará (Sema). This is first time that the list is drawn up and must be included in the Red Book with information on the conservation status of species living in the State.

Check out the list of terrestrial mammals classified as critically endangered, some of which have probably disappeared from Ceará territory:

  • Sloth (Bradypus variegatus) [provavelmente extinto]
  • Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) [provavelmente extinto]
  • Jaguar (Panthera onca) [provavelmente extinto]
  • Wild Pig/Queixada (Tayassu pecari) [provavelmente extinto]
  • Coati (Nasua nasua)
  • Bat (Chiroderma vizottoi)
  • Mountain squirrel/Caxinguelê (Guerlinguetus brasiliensis)
  • Armadillo (Tolypeutes tricinctus)

This means that if conservation actions are not carried out, these animals may cease to exist in Ceará, as highlighted by Hugo Fernandes, professor at the State University of Ceará (Uece) and coordinator of the survey.

“They are on the edge of the cliff, in the face of punctual impacts they disappear from our map. This is the case of the squirrel, which only exists in Serra da Aratanha, the three-banded armadillo and several species that need urgent action to avoid extinction”.

Other groups, such as marine mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians will be listed in new lists throughout the year. With this material it will be possible to define public policies for the preservation of animals.

Legend: Jaguar can already be considered as probably extinct from the analysis of the group

Photograph: Porto Jofre

“Ceará already indicates a serious scenario of defaunation, which is the loss of fauna. We have two species that have become extinct in Ceará, the giant armadillo and tapir”, emphasizes biologist Hugo Fernandes, coordinator of the survey.

The loss of species occurs mainly due to local issues such as hunting, deforestation, pollution – also of the atmospheric and noise type – and even being run over. With that, the result is the environmental imbalance of the territory.

Extinction is forever, it’s not just important when the species disappears from the planet, but from a certain place, which can be a mountain or a small town, because we lose all ecosystem service”

Biologist and survey coordinator

hugo fernandes

Impacts on the entire ecosystem

When there are fewer pollinators, agriculture is threatened. Without a top predator, smaller bugs can grow in population and affect the production of family farmers, for example.

The case of the extinct tapir can be related to the reduction of new umbu trees, as the animal spread the seeds.

“Extinction always causes a serious process and triggers environmental impacts. When we point out which species are about to go extinct, we are saying that we need to move now to avoid that”, warns the expert.


Legend: Animals perform important functions for the environmental balance and preservation of other species. Record shows a howler monkey.

Photograph: Thieres Pintos

Thus, the survey of species at risk of extinction should guide public policies, approval of projects, creation of conservation units, among other environmental strategies.

“We are talking about territory and public resources, about real public policy, because it is not a document that they can use one day, but used from the moment it is published”, he emphasizes.

How the survey was done

About 5 years ago, articulations began to produce the red lists of threatened species in Ceará. In 2019, the first meetings were held and the ordinance to define the analysis was published the following year.

This is a complex process that begins with the collection of academic publications, such as theses and dissertations, on the animals present in Ceará. 18 public and private institutions participate, such as universities, non-governmental organizations and environmental institutes.

“We had to look for information in museums and collections not only in Ceará, but also outside Brazil, historical documents. The preliminary survey work was very large to generate the list and find out what is there”, recalls Hugo.

From there, inventories of all species present in the territory of Ceará were elaborated in order to classify them in terms of conservation status. This is done with an international method.

“We gather available biological and ecological information about each of them, a database, and for each species we use a methodological guide, a protocol prepared by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)”, he highlights.

wild deer

Legend: Among the possible measures to reverse the situation, captive breeding and the creation of conservation units are effective measures. In the record a bush deer.

Photograph: hugo fernandes

The coordinator contextualizes that five rounds are held with national and international specialists. A public hearing is also held before defining the conservation status of the species.

A considerable part of the analyzed species were classified as data deficient (DD) or insufficient data in the English translation.

“We had a high DD rate, almost 20% of the species, which means that the State of Ceará needs to invest a lot in basic science to understand which species we have, basic biological and ecological data, so that we can actually determine the state of conservation”, points out Hugo.

Basis for public policies

The Ceará Red List of Threatened Fauna works as a mapping of the situation of the animals and what can be done to maintain the preservation.

This means that the application of public resources and even the authorization for the construction of projects must consider the information on the list

“You can indicate what the threats are, because it’s on the evaluation sheet for each species. Propose mitigation and management strategies that can mitigate these impacts in the short, medium and long term”, explains Hugo.


Legend: Information about the animals is detailed in scientific articles. Record shows a puma.

Photograph: joares may

It is also important that this information be regionalized, as defended by Luis Ernesto Bezerra, professor at the Institute of Marine Sciences (Labomar) at the Federal University of Ceará (UFC) and Chief Scientist for the Environment.

“We gathered a set of information regarding each species, categorized them according to the conservation level and prioritized those that are in danger”, he emphasizes.

With detailed information about the animals, it is also possible to define more precise strategies for conservation.

giant anteater

Legend: Each species must have a different conservation strategy depending on what the researchers observe. The record shows a giant anteater.

Photograph: hugo fernandes

“Depending on the degree of criticality of the species, or on the ecology, carrying out captive breeding projects to try to recover the population”, indicates Luis.

The relationship with endangered animals must be replicated for other groups, with an inventory already carried out, as the scientists emphasize.

“By the end of the year we will publish the red book, they are two different things, because the list is with the status. The book will provide the information that allowed us to say that that species is in that category”, he concludes.

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