Monday, September 12, 2011

Chameleon beauty and myths.

Flap-necked Chameleon, Namibia. Look at that grip- two toes opposing maximises the hold.

 In Damaraland, Namibia, we found this gorgeous chameleon,  nonchalantly jaywalking on a desert track just  minding his own business, getting about from tree to tree when a big brute of a 4WD Landcruiser just about splattered him. Neil, our eagle-eyed driver, spotted this green jewelled reptile. An experienced safari guide he was a wizard in the bush, pointing out all sorts of wildlife that we missed. Neil had a wonderful appreciation for all wildlife: no matter if it was a poisonous snake or spider, it was not to be harmed. He taught us that they are wildlife to be appreciated, they have a place in the natural world and sometimes they're just in the wrong place when humans are around. So he would capture and release them, well away from us so they can go on about being the beautiful creatures they are.

In Africa the chameleon is killed if found. The very attributes that make this creature unique and fascinating, make it the subject of suspicion and negative folklore: it's an evil creature; it's the subject of myths of evil, spells and witchcraft - or muti. Chameleon can puff themselves up to look larger. They can swivel their eyes to look in different directions at once, and changing colours just gives locals the heebie-jeebies! And that grip is so hard to break, but living in trees and brush being able to grip a twig or branch firmly is a necessity.

Here's a great website about chameleons with a forum thread discussing witchcraft and chameleons.

Dark coloring to match the background.
Russell, our driver in Botswana, was another sharp-eyed wonder at seeing chameleon on the highways. Yep, they have a few tarmac highways in Bots; a lot of Chinese investment improving the road infrastructure. Heaven knows what's going to happen to elephants there in the future. Hell of a lot of ivory wandering around Botswana, and a heck of a lot of Chinese now.

Picking this guy up, his colour lightens up.
Often Russell would pull over, run back and pick up a chameleon from the road, talk about it with us, then he would release it in the scrub. Being slow walkers, a lot get flattened on the new wide highways. Wider sealed roads mean higher speeds and more vehicles, which means more wildlife strikes: not just chameleons.

And away he goes, perfectly camouflaged.

 This guy made it safely with our help.

 Anyone self driving in Africa- keep a sharp look-out out for these.

Want to learn more about rare species? Zip over to Rachel's site and check out all the other posts in this linked event!



JIM said...

Great looking throwback creature. THe color is really vibrant. Love the eyes I have seen what was called chameleons before but they did not look anything like these!!!

Rachel Hoyt said...

Thanks so much for sharing this post in my study! I didn't know ANY of the stuff you just shared. Great lesson! It makes me sad to think they are feared (and thus killed) by many Africans. I'm glad some others are watching out for them! :)

Jim said...

Hi JIM.Truly fascinating creatures. The larger ones will bite if annoyed but generally they're quite docile. But as they warm up in the sun or from the heat of your hand, they get more active and may then bite.

Jim said...

Yeah sad Rachel that the very attributes that make them unique, make them subject of suspicion and negative folklore.

Nomadic Samuel said...

Jim, those are some great shots! I never realized the negative connotations it had in Africa - being killed liked that.

Jim said...

Sadly that's the case Samuel. Saw a few squashed on the roads as locals don't avoid them if they see them.
Beautiful creatures although the big ones will bite if annoyed.

Anonymous said...

Ah I want one :-) but I doubt I find one in Norfolk uk. And I actually rather see them in the wild. Great pictures and great informative post.

Mark Wiens said...

When I was a kid growing up in Kenya, I used to play with chameleons quite a lot. They are amazing creatures and they way they transform and change colors is incredible. Great shots of these chameleons Jim!

Melissa Tandoc said...

I had a careful look of chameleons only in your images... why didn't it turn into your skin color? :P...

I don't know much about it, so thanks for the link you shared :)