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Namibia


Chameleons

everything you ever needed to know about Namibian Chamelons

Chameleons belong to the Family Chamaeleonidae and are unmistakable lizards, as they look like no other. They are primarily arboreal creatures with features that substantiate their tree living abilities. The head and body are compressed with an undefinable neck, ideal for checking into awkward shaped holes, crevices and cracks. Every species has limbs and the toes are usually bound together. The tail is also capable of grasping on to trees and rocks and cannot be shed or regenerated. They have small scales that do not overlap and are bereft of bony plates.

Other interesting characteristics include eyes that can move independently. Their hearing is poor though. The tongue is a fascination feature as it is telescopic and can move at 5 times the speed of a jet fighter in flight. Unsuspecting prey never know what has hit them; apart from the amazing speed, the tongue can be propelled further than a full body length to capture it's target, even through a thin veil of foliage. Males are more colourful than females and colour, their compressed bodies, crests and casques (helmets) provide brilliant camouflage and defence capabilities.

Exclusive territories are maintained through contests which include throat punching, head-butting and colour changing. These battles rarely involve any actual fighting but a chameleon will bite if the intruder fails to withdraw.

One of the most fascinating feature of a chameleons is the ability to change colour. They do this when they are stressed or aroused. If a chameleon is stressed it will darken in colour. When they are excited when romancing females or undergoing a territorial dispute the colour is brightest. Females lay large clutches of soft-shelled eggs.

There are 2 types of chameleons found in Namibia. They are:
  • Common chameleon (Chamaeleo)
  • Dwarf chameleon (Bradypodion)

These are medium to large-sized chameleons with a prehensile tail. They can be found in forest or woody savannah, with some species venturing into semi-desert or mountain grassland. Most female common chameleons lay eggs. There are 2 species found in Namibia. They are:

As you would expect, dwarf chameleons are small chameleons, often found in small colonies of changing populations in and around Walvis Bay. Bradypodion means 'slow foot', which describes their 'deliberate, jerky gait' to a tee. Males undergo the traditional chameleon colour changing processes when defending territory from other males or when after a piece of tail and also participate in rituals of head bobbing.

Dwarf chameleons live in trees and eat small insects and rely on a constant water supply which they can lick raindrops or dew off leaves or other foliage. Predators are many especially snakes such as the boomslang and spotted bush snake. The habit of climbing onto the top of vegetation to bask in the morning sunshine is a particular problem as birds such as the fiscal shrike are on a constant lookout. In the evening they retire into low-lying bushes which makes them easy prey and they are easy to spot by torch-light. There is only 1 species of dwarf chameleon found in Namibia. It is:

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