Concerning Florida’s introduced panther chameleons

Concerning Florida’s introduced panther chameleons

Verbreitung Science

The “Sunshine State” Florida in the USA has the largest number of non-native species of reptiles in the world because of its warm climate. The panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) is one of the invasive species, i.e. those that do not actually belong in Florida but are now reproducing there. A study has now investigated the question of what the human inhabitants of Florida actually think of the chameleons.

It has been discussed for a long time whether panther chameleons belong to the species that were deliberately released for the purpose of “ranching”, i.e. to collect the offspring of the released chameleons for sale. That private individuals collect panther chameleons is not in dispute. According to the authors, ranching populations in Florida are mostly kept secret. They became aware of a small population in Orange County via social media in 2019. They then searched for the animals at night with torches and actually found 26 panther chameleons during several walks. They encountered private individuals on several occasions who were also looking for chameleons.

In 2020, questionnaires were distributed in person and via flyers with QR codes to 248 households located within the presumed 0.9 km² distribution area of the panther chameleon population. They were asked about concerns regarding the occurrence of panther chameleons, but also about existing knowledge about invasive species in general. The residents were also divided into three areas: A core region where chameleons had been observed several times, a peripheral region with few findings, and an outer region where no chameleons had been sighted at all.

44 households answered the questionnaire.  In fact, all 11 interviewed residents in the outer region had not sighted any chameleons. Of the 33 residents interviewed in the core and peripheral region, about a third said they had already observed panther chameleons. The same number had seen the light of torches at night. 86% of the residents surveyed knew that panther chameleons are not actually native to Florida. Only a few residents said they were concerned about the occurrence. Seven residents had approached collectors with torches and said the collectors had all said they were looking for chameleons for research purposes. Only one of the collectors had said he/she was looking for animals to sell, according to the residents. One resident reported an altercation after strangers entered his property several times looking for chameleons. Another resident called the police because of a whole group of collectors on the neighbouring property.

Unfortunately, the questionnaire was given out after the search efforts of the authors themselves, so it is not apparent from the responses how many of the encounters were indeed with people looking for chameleons for sale purposes. The publication is also a preprint, so no review process has taken place yet.

Colorful lizards and the conflict of collection
Colin M. Goodman, Natalie M. Claunch, Zachary T. Steele, Diane J. Episcopio-Sturgeon, Christina M. Romagosa
Preprint, 2023
DOI: 10.1101/2023.08.10.552819

Picture: Alex Laube

Chameleons in the Montagne des Français (Madagascar)

Chameleons in the Montagne des Français (Madagascar)

Verbreitung Science

The Montagne des Français is a limestone massif with dry forest in northern Madagascar. It reaches up to 425 m above sea level and is within sight of the largest coastal town in the north, Antsiranana (French Diego Suarez). It has been a protected area since 2007. Scientists from Madagascar and the USA conducted counts of reptiles and amphibians in the Montagne des Français in 2014 and 2020.

Counts were made in January and May, i.e. during and at the end of the rainy season. In 2014, the focus was on the region around Andavakoera, while in 2020 it was on Sahabedara, Ampitiliantsambo, and Andavakoera. In order to find animals, the search was conducted during the day and at night along predefined paths, partly in suitable habitats, and partly in pitfall pits.

A total of 20 amphibian and 50 reptile species were recorded. Four new amphibians and one reptile were found for the first time in the Montagne des Français. The snake Langaha pseudoalluaudi was discovered again for the first time since 2007. Among the chameleons, there were minor new discoveries. Brookesia stumpffi could only be found in 2014, but no longer in 2020 – however, due to the relatively wide distribution of the species, this should not be a problem for the entire population. Brookesia tristis, one of the smallest chameleons in the world, was also only seen in 2014. Here, the body size, which makes it very difficult to find, and the time of year (May is relatively late for this species) could play a role. Brookesia ebenaui was detected in Andavakoera in 2014 and in Sahabedara in 2020. The two tree dwellers Furcifer oustaleti and Furcifer pardalis were found in both years in Andavakoera and Ampitiliantsambo. Furcifer petteri, on the other hand, was present at all the sites surveyed in both years.

Amphibians and reptiles of the “Montagne des Français”: Update of the distribution and regional endemicity
Herizo Oninjatovo Radonirina, Bernard Randriamahatantsoa, Rabibisoa Harinelina Christian Nirhy, Christopher J. Raxworthy
DOI: 10.20944/preprints202306.1499.v1

Photo: Furcifer petteri on Madagascar, photographed by A. Laube

Panther chameleons in Madagascar

Panther chameleons in Madagascar

General topics Verbreitung Newspaper articles

In the bi-monthly magazine of the DGHT e.V., the Elaphe, a nice article on the panther chameleons of Madagascar has been published. It was written by two members of the AG Chamäleons who regularly travel to the island.

The article describes in words and pictures the distribution area of the panther chameleons on Madagascar, which extends over the northern half of the island, more precisely from a few kilometres south of the village of Ankaramibe in the northwest to the north of Madagascar and down the east coast to about 90 km south of the port city of Toamasina. The chameleons are found mainly in secondary vegetation in open landscapes, but also in cocoa plantations, overgrown gardens and rainforests.

The life cycle of the panther chameleons in Madagascar is mainly determined by the rainy season between November and March. The chameleons mate during this time. After 30 to 40 days, the females lay between 11 and 35 eggs in a nest they have dug themselves. The young hatch only in the next rainy season.

The article goes into particular detail about the different local forms, the different colour appearance of the male panther chameleons depending on the location. The authors currently count more than 30 different local forms on Madagascar, which are separated from each other by natural barriers such as rivers. There are probably many more, but not all of them have been discovered yet.

Pantherchamäleons (Furcifer pardalis) – Meister der Farben
Thorsten Negro and Alexandra Laube
Elaphe 3, 2023, pp. 12-25

Photo: Panther chameleon of the local form Ambanja on Madagascar, photographed by Thorsten Negro.