Updated: 01/07/2014 20:53 | By Agence France-Presse

A million World Cup armadillos take shape in China

In the wild the Brazilian three-banded armadillo is classed as "vulnerable", but a million furry versions of the creature picked as the 2014 World Cup mascot are taking shape in a Chinese factory.

A million World Cup armadillos take shape in China

A worker adjusts a large soft toy of Fuleco the Armadillo, the official mascot of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, at a factory in Tianchang, east China's Anhui province on January 6, 2014

Fuleco may for now still be a largely unknown yellow armadillo with a blue shell and tail, but the mascot of the world's biggest single sports event represents 80 percent of sales for Tongchuang Toys in the eastern province of Anhui.

The company won a contract with the tournament organisers to produce a million furry toy versions of Fuleco, whose name, according to FIFA, is a fusion of the words "futebol" and "ecologia".

The toys will be used for merchandising and gifts for sponsors, according to a report on Anhuiwang news portal.

The company shipped 500,000 armadillos to Brazil last month, and is now producing its second batch.

"This big order accounts for four fifths of our total sales volume, and we will be working on it right through to April," factory manager Yu Renjun told the website. It did not give a value for the deal.

The species, Latin name Tolypeutes tricinctus, was believed to be extinct until its rediscovery in the early 1990s and is now considered "vulnerable" on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List.

"When threatened, it has the habit of rolling into an easily portable ball," it says on its website. 

The World Cup kicks off in Sao Paulo on June 12 with a match between Brazil and Croatia, and will run until July 13.

The mascot for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was a leopard called Zakumi, while in Germany 2006 it was a lion named Goleo.

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