Two tiny and very delicate Johnston’s Chameleons hatched the UK’s Exmoor Zoo. Just over an inch (3 cm) long, the babies had an auspicious start in life: they were laid by a female that was part of an illegal shipment en route to the Czech Republic and seized by customs agents in Belgium.
Because Johnston’s Chameleons occur only in the western branch of Tanzania’s African Rift Valley – the Albertine Rift – they are extremely rare in captivity, according to Danny Reynolds of the Exmoor Zoo. “They are probably the first of this species ever born in captivity within UK zoos,” he said.
The illegal shipment of 59 Chameleons was due to be destroyed when the UK’s Specialist Wildlife Services and UK Customs officials intervened and placed all the lizards in UK zoos. Females at several other zoos have laid eggs, but those at the Exmoor Zoo were the first to hatch.
Like all Chameleons, Johnston’s Chameleons are zygodactylous – they have two toes pointing forward and two toes pointing backward, which enables them to easily cling to tree branches (or toothpicks, as seen in the photos above). They capture insects with their long, extrudable tongues. In captivity, the babies are fed fruit flies and day-old crickets.
Photo Credit: Exmoor Zoo