Where did it happen? In Africa. Due to the massive deforestation, it was considered extinct. It is therefore surprising to have found the rarest chameleon in the world. They are Chapman’s pygmy chameleons (Rhampholeon champanorum). They survive in small areas of the tropical forest in southern Malawi in southeastern Africa. The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) found it.
Hide in the leaves
“When we found him, we got goose bumps. And we started jumping, “he said in one release Kristal Tolley. She is the lead author of the study. And also herpetologist at SANBI and the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. He thought it was just a copy. But there were many more.
Chapman’s dwarf chameleons are only 5.5 centimeters tall. They walk on the forest floor. They camouflage themselves by adapting their skin to the pattern of dead leaves. They were first discovered in 1992 in a shrinking forest in the hills of Malawi. They were then released in a forest 95 kilometers away near Mikundi. The aim was to increase their chances of survival.
The team took satellite images of the Malawi Hills forest. Compared to 1980, the forest has decreased by 80%.
The researchers identified areas where chameleons could still live. They inspected with flashlights at night, when they were easiest to spot.
They found 17 adult chameleons in two patches of forest in the hills of Malawi. Also 21 adult and 11 young chameleons in an area near Mikundi. There can be more in other areas.
“The loss of forests requires immediate attention. Before this species reaches a point of no return, “Tolley said. Urgent conservation measures are needed. Habitat needs to be restored to promote connectivity.
Much of the forest in the hills of Malawi has been cleared and prepared for agriculture. This time the rarest chameleon in the world could be found. But it may be that soon he won’t be so lucky.
The results of the investigation were released en la revista Oryx – The International Journal of Conservation.