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Fuleco, the World Cup mascot needs help avoiding extinction

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Fuleco, the World Cup mascot needs help avoiding extinction

Fuleco, the mascot of the World Cup in Brazil, is real and is a charming animal: an armadillo fighting extinction.

Now scientists call for that every goal in the World Cup, held in 12 Brazilian cities from June 12 to July 13, transforms into more protection for the armadillo.

The armadillo is a curious ball shaped animal of 50 centimeters that when it senses danger it becomes coils into a hard shell and forms a perfect ball, hence the choice as a mascot for the World Cup.

The NGO Asociación Caatinga proposed to FIFA to adopt the "armadillo ball" as a mascot, convinced that Brazil is a country of lush forests and jungles and had to be linked the World Cup to protect the environment, species, and ecosystems in danger.

Weighing less than a kilo and who eats ants, roots, and fruits, was voted by more than 1.7 million people to baptize of the little armadillo by naming it "Fuleco" combining the words "football" and "ecology".

"Choosing Fuleco as the official mascot has helped raise awareness in Brazil about the armadillo and its status as an endangered species," said Fifa in a statement sent to AFP.

- Goals for the armadillo ball -

Scientists linked to the government’s institute of biodiversity, ICMBIO, have launched a provocative campaign that claim to FIFA and the government that every goal in the World Cup will be transformed into 1,000 hectares of protection for Caatinga.

“Protecting the remaining Caatinga is extremely urgent. We want the choice of one of the Caatinga’s most iconic species as the World Cup mascot to be more than just a symbolic one”, says José Alves Siqueira, one of the authors of Biotropica, a magazine for the launch of the campaign, and a Professor at the Federal University of the Valley of São Francisco (Univasf).

On the Brazilian side, there has been some good news for the armadillo as it is yet to be revealed a plan with specific goals for preservation, reports the Ministry of Environment.

"Without the World Cup, this, surely, would not have happened," says Castro.

"The armadillo does not dig holes, and its only defense strategies are evading and coiling into its shell but even when on the run, it can be easily be caught by a person, and when it is coiled [a position that can be maintained for 20 or 30 minutes], can be grabbed without risk for those who hunt him," reports the Red Book.