New data on the international trade in chameleons

New data on the international trade in chameleons


Researchers from several universities recently analysed the international trade in chameleons. The focus was on Tanzania in East Africa. Tanzania is currently home to 41 of the 228 known species, making it the country with the second-highest number of chameleon species after Madagascar.

The study was based on the publicly accessible CITES trade database and the annual reports of the countries participating in the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Chameleons exported for scientific or non-commercial purposes were excluded. In addition, the most frequently clicked websites on the Internet in the form of English-language sales platforms, social media and forums were searched for sale and purchase adverts for chameleons using Google and “[species] for sale”. A total of 14 websites of commercial sellers, two online forums, two advertising websites, four social media sites and seven closed groups in social media were analysed. As a third pillar of the study, villagers in the Eastern Arc Mountains in Tanzania were interviewed using a questionnaire with eleven questions.

The general result of the study is that the international trade in chameleons fell rapidly between 2000 and 2019. At the same time, the number of chameleons bred in captivity increased. The number of “ranched” chameleons, i.e. chameleons bred on a farm in the country of origin for export, fell slightly. The largest export factor was commercial trade, with almost all species being exported directly from their countries of origin and not via other intermediaries in other countries. From 2000 to 2019, a total of 327,522 chameleons were legally traded. Only six countries accounted for 91% of exports: Tanzania, Madagascar, Mozambique, Uganda, Ghana and Cameroon. Tanzania was the country from which the most chameleons were traded, accounting for 34% of all exports. The country to which most chameleon exports went was the USA with 46%. The USA thus received almost half of all chameleons traded under CITES worldwide between 2000 and 2019. Other countries with relatively high numbers of chameleon imports were Japan (13%) and Germany (10%).

Six chameleon species from Tanzania were particularly sought after. Together they accounted for 85% of the trade in chameleons in the period mentioned. Kinyongia fischeri and Kinyongia tavetana were exported most frequently, followed by Trioceros werneri, Trioceros deremensis and Trioceros fuelleborni. Of the 42 species occurring in Tanzania, 35 were found for sale on online platforms and 29 were regularly on sales lists.

The on-site surveys in Tanzania revealed that only two out of three mountain ranges observed had participated in the trade in chameleons (East Usambara and Uluguru). As Tanzania has suspended its exports indefinitely since 2016, the majority of respondents stated that there is currently no longer any trade in chameleons. Interestingly, the villagers stated that they had collected 13 species for trade, but 7 of these species never appeared on the official exports for Tanzania. The answers to the question of how many chameleons of which species were traded also differed significantly from the official figures in the perception of the local population: While locals reported “thousands” of chameleons with one horn as supposedly collected annually, only very isolated ones of these were actually exported. There may also be a strong divergence here due to a lack of species differentiation.

Trade routes in Tanzania could be traced quite well through the interviews. In general, traders from Muheza and Morogoro came to the Usambaa and Uluguru mountains and gave the villagers a desired number of certain species (selected according to “one horn, two horns, three horns or giant”). A time limit was set, after which the traders returned and transported the collected chameleons to Dar es Salaam for export. One trader was questioned more intensively and stated that his father had already traded in chameleons. He had also never seen a collection permit, even though his clients always emphasised that they had one. The middlemen and collectors had no interest in what the collected chameleons were to be used for, only what was paid for them. Even a middleman only received 0.4 US dollars per chameleon.

Status and trends in the international wildlife trade in Chameleons with a focus on Tanzania
Maxim Conrad Isaac, Neil D. Burgess, Oliver J.S. Tallowin, Alyson T. Pavitt, Reuben M. J. Kadigi, Claire Ract
PLoS ONE 19(5), 2024.
DOI: 10.1371

Picture: Kinygonia tavetana, photographed by Elizabeth Dougherty, Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

The largest chameleon

The largest chameleon

Internationaler Chamäleontag

The largest chameleon in the world – well, actually several species are fighting for the title. There are three contenders: the Meller’s chameleon (Trioceros melleri) from mainland Africa, the Parson’s Chameleon (Calumma parsonii parsonii) from Madagascar and the Madagascar giant chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti).

The Meller’s chameleon is found in the mountains of Tanzania, northern Mozambique and Malawi. The main distribution area is known to be Mount Zomba. The largest chameleon of this species measured to date is said to have measured 76 cm from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail and weighed 600 g. The Parson’s chameleon, on the other hand, is found in various places on the central and southern east coast of Madagascar. Here, the largest chameleon measured so far is said to have been 72 cm long, but there are even measurements of over 700 g in weight. The Parson’s Chameleon is therefore definitely heavier, and the size of some animals comes close to that of the Meller’s chameleon. That leaves the Madagascar Giant Chameleon. It reaches almost 70 cm and, despite its sometimes impressive size, it almost always weighs less than 500 g. So despite its name, it will probably have to make do with third place.

#show your colours #internationalchameleonday #chameleonday #chameleondayMay9 #agchamaeleons

Trioceros melleri
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International, photographed by John Lyakurwa
Calumma parsonii parsonii, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International, photographed by von Jialiang Gao
Furcifer oustaleti, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International, photographed by Sharp Photography

Six new Rhampholeon species in Tanzania

Six new Rhampholeon species in Tanzania

Neubeschreibungen Science

In the last 15 years, the number of known Rhampholeon species has doubled – not least because some species complexes “hid” numerous undescribed species. Scientists from Great Britain, Tanzania, and South Africa have now shed light on exactly such a case: the Rhampholeon uluguruensis/moyeri complex. The pygmy chameleons from this complex inhabit different habitats in the Eastern Arc Mountains, a 600 km long mountain range stretching from Kenya to Tanzania. The most striking feature of the genus Rhampholeon so far is that the described species differ only slightly in appearance, but occur in narrowly defined habitats that are usually completely isolated from each other. The authors studied pygmy chameleons from seven different locations in Tanzania. In the process, they were able to identify six new Rhampholeon species by means of genetic studies.

Rhampholeon colemani was named after the conservationist Carter Coleman. The species occurs in the Kitolomero Valley at about 1200 m a.s.l.. The valley is located in the Uzungwa Scarp Nature Reserve in the Udzungwa Mountains in the middle of Tanzania, about 350 km south-east of the capital Dodoma. What is special about this distribution area is that the already-known Rhampholeon moyeri also occurs in this reserve. It is still unclear whether the two species possibly live at different altitudes. Rhampholeon colemani grows up to 44 mm (TL) and is thus the second smallest of the Rhampholeon species described so far. The hemipenes of the males of these species could be described in detail. A characteristic feature of Rhampholeon colemani is the rostral appendage, which is at an angle of up to 59° to the snout or points slightly downwards. In all other terrestrial chameleons of the genus, the angle is much smaller, so the rostral appendage is rather straightforward.

Rhampholeon sabini was named in honour of Andy Sabin for his financial support and worldwide commitment to conservation. The species lives in Tanzania in the sub-montane rainforest of two neighbouring reserves, which are located in the north-east of the country about 250 km from the coastal city of Dar es Salaam. One of the habitats is the Nguu North Forest Reserve, the other the Kilindi Forest Reserve, both at an altitude of just over 1200 m above sea level. Rhampholeon sabini grows up to 54 mm, with the relative size of the head and tail appearing larger in relation to the rest of the body than in the other species.

Rhampholeon rubeho occurs on the mountains of the same name, the Rubeho Mountains, at about 1870 m a.s.l., located about 150 km east of the capital Dodoma. The rainforest inhabited by this species is mainly in the Mafwomero Forest Reserve. Rhampholeon rubeho grows up to 63 mm long. In addition, scientists currently count a population of earth chameleons in the Ilole Forest Reserve 50 km away, on the southern foothills of the Rubeho Mountains, as belonging to this species. However, this population has not yet been genetically studied.

Rhampholeon nicolai was named after the late Nicola Colangelo, a Tanzanian entrepreneur who promoted species conservation and sustainable resource use. Rhampholeon nicolai grows up to 60 mm long, and similar to R. sabini, the relative size of the head and tail in relation to the rest of the body appears larger than in the other species. Rhampholeon nicolai lives in the Ukaguru Mountains, just north of the Rubeho Mountains. It has been recorded in the three contiguous protected areas of Mamiwa Kisara North Forest Reserve, Mamiwa Kisara South Forest Reserve and the Ikwamba Forest Reserve at 1970 m altitude. A population of ground chameleons in nearby Mikuvi Forest is initially counted as part of the species, but its exact status has yet to be investigated.

Rhampholeon waynelotteri was given its name in honour of the murdered South African conservation activist Wayne Lotter, who was particularly active in the fight against elephant poaching. This pgymy chameleon grows up to 55 m tall. It inhabits Mount Kanga, about 120 km from the Indian Ocean coast. Mount Kanga is part of the Nguru Mountains, although the mountain is separated from the main massif by an 8 km wide lowland corridor and a river. Rhampholeon waynelotteri is described from the Kanga Forest Reserve at about 1280 m as well as de Mkingu Nature Reserve. In the latter, it occurs together with Rhampholeon acuminatus, from which it can be easily distinguished by its differently shaped rostral appendage and small appendages above the eyes. A pygmy chameleon population on Mount Nguru was initially attributed to Rhampholeon waynelotteri, but further research is pending.

Rhampholeon princeeai was named after the American artist and YouTuber Prince Ea. Rhampholeon princeeai lives at altitudes of 1870 m in the Mkingu Nature Reserve on the Nguru Mountains. Rhampholeon waynelotteri and Rhampholeon acuminatus also occur there. The species grows up to 46 mm long and has a special feature: the rostral appendage has a triangular shape when viewed from above. In addition, the species has a small depression in the inguinal region, which the other species studied so far do not have.

The already known species Rhampholeon uluguruensis was found exclusively in the Uluguru Nature Reserve and the Mkungwe Forest Reserve. Rhampholeon moyeri is found only in the Uzungwa Scarp Nature Reserve in the Udzungwa Mountains. Rhampholeon beraduccii is restricted to the Sali Forest Reserve in the Mahenge Mountains and Rhampholeon acuminatus, as anticipated, lives exclusively in the Mingu Nature Reserve in the Nguru Mountains.

Cryptic diversity in pygmy chameleons (Chamaeleonidae: Rhampholeon) of the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania, with description of six new species
Michelle Menegon, John V. Lyakurwa, Simon P. Loader, Krystal A. Tolley
Acta Herpetologica 17 (2): 85-113, 2022
DOI: 10.36253/a_h-12978

Photo: Rhampholeon rubeho, from the above-mentioned publication

Trioceros hanangensis, eine neue Art aus dem Trioceros bitaeniatus Komplex

General topics

Vom Mount Hanang, Tansania, wird eine neue Trioceros Art beschrieben.  Bislang ist nur eine Population von Trioceros hanangensis am Mt Hanang in etwa 2800m Höhe bekannt und ähnelt stark Trioceros sternfeldi (Rand,1963).

Patrick Krause und Wolfgang Böhme fanden in morphologischen und genetischen Untersuchungen im Vergleich zu anderen Arten aus dem Trioceros bitaeniatus Komplex große Unterschiede, sodass es sich hier um eine eigene Art handelt.

KRAUSE & BOEHME, 2010: A new chameleon of the Trioceros bitaeniatus complex from Mt. Hanang, Tanzania, East Africa (Squamata: Chamaeleonidae). Bonn zoological Bulletin 57 (1): 19–29

Neue Art der Gattung Kinyongia beschrieben

General topics

Aus dem Magombera Forest im Udzungwa Mountains National Park, süd-zentral Tansania, wird eine neue Chamäleonart,  Kinyongia magomberae sp. nov. (das Magombera Chamäleon), beschrieben.
Das neue Chamäleon ist K. tenuis und dem weiterverbreiteten, im Eastern Arc endemischen K. oxyrhina, durch seinen einzelnen rostralen Anhang ähnlich.
Es kann jedoch durch den kürzeren rostralen Anhang und das Fehlen einer beweglichen Spitze von diesen beiden Arten unterschieden werden.
K. magomberae sp. nov. ist, nur von zwei Orten bekannt, dem flachen und ungeschützten Magombera Forest und dem sub-montanen Mwanihana Forest innerhalb des Udzungwa Mountains National Park.

Michele Menegon, Krystal Tolley, Trevor Jones, Francesco Rovero, Andrew R. Marshall & Colin R. Tilbury (2009):
A new species of chameleon (Sauria: Chamaeleonidae: Kinyongia) from the Magombera forest and the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, Tanzania.
African Journal of Herpetology, 2009 58(2): 59-70

Neue Art der Gattung Kinyongia beschrieben

General topics

Kinyongia vanheygeni (NECAS, 2009)

Die 2002 erstmals von NAGY in den Tansanianischen Poroto-
Bergen entdeckte „neue“ Chamäleonart wurde jetzt von Petr NECAS anhand von Fotos (VAN HEYGEN, 2008) und einem toten Tier beschrieben und in die Gattung Kinyongia gestellt.

Kinyongia vanheygeni erreicht eine Gesamtlänge von nur etwa 15 cm und trägt einen Rostralfortsatz mit zwei parallel verlaufenden Längsreihen aus je drei vergrößerten Schuppen. Auffällig ist der hoch aufragende nach hinten und oben gewölbte Helm.
Die Tiere sind farblich unauffällig in Gelb- Braun- Grau- und Grüntönen gefärbt.

Bisher wurde nur ein männliches Tier lebend gefunden und fotografiert. – Eine ausführliche Beschreibung folgt in einer der nächsten Ausgaben der Chamaeleo.

Quelle: Ein neues Chamäleon der Gattung Kinyongia Tilbury, Tolley & Branch 2006 aus den Poroto-Bergen, Süd-Tansania (Reptilia: Sauria: Chamaeleonidae)