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Chameleon Notes – Rare Belalanda Chameleon; Pet Choices; New Research

Bradypodion pumiliumChameleons are one of those reptiles that fascinate both herpers and “regular people” alike.  How can they not – from tiny, ground-dwelling Dwarf Chameleons, Bradypodium spp. to huge, brilliantly-colored tree dwellers such as Parson’s Chameleon, Calumma parsonii (please see photos of both), the world’s 175+ species are wonderfully bizarre in both habits and appearance.  Today I’ll provide a pet care and research update, and am also happy to report the discovery of another population (the third) of one of the world’s rarest reptiles – the Belalanda Chameleon, Furcifer belalandensis.

The Edge of Extinction?

Until recently, the gorgeous, emerald-green Belalanda Chameleon was know to exist in only 2 tiny populations, both limited to a few trees within 2 villages in Madagascar.  This month (March, 2011), a third population, also within a village, was discovered by researchers from Great Britain’s Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology.

While some believe that other individuals may thrive in more natural situations, it must be said that Madagascar’s habitats have been well studied by herpetologists, and its woodlands are subject to the world’s highest rate of deforestation.  The Belalanda Chameleon, one of at least 75 species endemic to Madagascar (found nowhere else on earth) may indeed be holding on for dear life in only 3 tiny, disturbed habitats.

The IUCN classifies the Belalanda Chameleon as Critically Endangered and it is listed on Appendix II of Cites.  Photos are available on the Arkive Website.

Madagascar’s Other Endangered Species

Chameleons are not the only Madagascan animals facing uncertain futures.  The island’s tortoises, rare, colorful and coveted by collectors, are all highly endangered…this article reports that as many as 1,000 may be poached each week!

Lemurs, gorgeously-colored Mantella Frogs, plants, insects and scores of creatures are all in dire straits.  Fortunately, Mantellas and certain others breed well in captivity, but many species do not.

Chameleon Research

Recent studies of chameleons have challenged a few basic assumptions that have long been held about reptiles.  For example, we now know that certain chameleons will alter their color and behavior differently in response to specific predators…snakes and birds, for example, will not elicit the same response.  We had long believed that temperature and stress alone determined color change.  Please see this article for details.

Chameleons will also modify their basking behavior in response to the Vitamin D levels in their diet (and I thought we had UVB needs all figured out!); please see this article to read more.

Chameleons as Pets

Parson’s ChameleonChameleons are much desired but often troublesome additions to both zoo and private collections.  For those with experience, however, there are a few that often do well if strict attention is paid their needs.

The Veiled Chameleon, Chamaeleo calyptratus, hails from a very harsh environment and seems to adapt well to change; it is an ideal “first chameleon”.  Due to their minuscule size, Dwarf Chameleons, Bradypodium spp., can more easily be accommodated by most hobbyists (chameleons do not thrive when crowded) than larger species.  Their dietary needs, however, are quite specific.

Please see the articles below for detailson the care and natural history of Veiled and Dwarf Chameleons.

Further Reading

Updates on Belalanda Chameleons and other Madagascan wildlife

Dwarf Chameleons

Chameleon Facts

Veiled Chameleons





Parson’s Chameleon image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by JialiangGao



  1. avatar
    Madagascar vacations

    this is probably the smallest chameleon I’ve ever seen. It’s too cute.

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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