07 February 2012 by Julienne du Toit

The trials of being a chameleon

We need to appreciate chameleons in the habitats in which they live. There are too many horror stories relating to collecting these creatures from the wild.

I nearly tripped over a Karoo dwarf chameleon last week. Literally. He was in my garden, treading carefully over the lawn. I could not resist picking him up. He peacefully gripped my fingers with his two-toed feet and swivelled his gun-turret eyes at me.

It was only when I examined him closely that I saw he was somewhat damaged. His tail was missing the tip and he seemed to have lost his left hind foot. Yet there was a tiny vestige there, looking like fresh growth. So they can they grow a limb again, like lizards? I put the chameleon, by now a sullen dark colour, into a thickly vegetated part of the garden (which is more a series of unkempt habitats than a series of flowerbeds).

Then I went inside to Google facts on my little chameleon, only to be confronted with page after page of reptile collector sites where they seem to speak in code.

I felt a protective indignation rise in me.

What does this mean, for example?

“I seem to be having some good luck in terms of chameleons have found yet another new species for me tonight, found just the one anyways here’s some pictures. As always I hope you guys enjoy.”

Then I went inside to Google facts on my little chameleon, only to be confronted with page after page of reptile collector sites where they seem to speak in code.

It was posted on a chatroom of SA Reptiles by someone calling themselves Scavenger, with unmistakable pictures of a Karoo dwarf chameleon.

Seriously. What does that mean? Did he acquire this chameleon, and if so how? Or did he just take a picture or stumble across a picture? I also came across a comment on another site in which collectors are saying they want to breed endangered South African reptiles for release in the wild. A thinly disguised excuse to collect these increasingly rare creatures from the wild, if I’m not mistaken.

Google ‘reptile trafficking’ and you’ll find nothing but horror stories. Most of them die of thirst after being stuffed into hairdryers, wine coolers and DVD boxes for days and days.

Isn’t it better to appreciate the little beasts in the places where they live?

Category: Wildlife

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