This officially marks the first time the zoo’s reptile experts have been able to successfully breed the alluring animal, known as the Cameroon two-horned mountain chameleon, which is currently listed as near threatened with extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
The species’ gradual loss of its natural habitat, compounded with the international pet trade, has threatened the very existence of the lizard known for its colorful and changing skin patterns and distinctive, independently movable eyes.
Adam Bland, the zoo’s Lead Herpetology Keeper, said in a statement:
“These chameleons have a really unusual appearance. They’re sometimes referred to as the Cameroon sailfin, owing to a sail-like flap of skin running along their backs. The males of the species boast two large horns just above their upper jaw which they use for jousting with other males.
“Even as babies, they have their iconic large eyes which, at their current size, may appear a little too big for their body. However, these give them 360° arc vision so they can see in two different directions at once and look out for predators.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever bred the species here at Chester and the team are thrilled.”
Dr. Gerardo Garcia, Curator of Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates at the zoo, added:
“These chameleons are thought to live in just 10 locations in the highlands of Cameroon as they only thrive at a very particular altitude (between 700m and 1,900m), in very specific forest habitat. As much of the highlands of Cameroon comprise of savannah and grasslands, it really restricts their range. Sadly, with that already small amount of available habitat being affected by human activity – degradation, agriculture and climate change – it’s making these chameleons more and more vulnerable.
“Another big threat to their survival is the international pet trade. Thousands of live chameleons have been taken from the wild and traded from Cameroon in the last dozen years.”
Through its wildlife conservation campaign, Act for Wildlife, the Chester Zoo is helping to save highly threatened species around the world from extinction. Find out more at actforwildlife.org.uk
Happy World Animal Day!