In January customs handed over 70 chameleons to Schönbrunn Zoo, which were taken from a smuggler at Vienna Airport. The reptiles from Tanzania were hidden in socks, dehydrated and full of parasites. How well the animals have recovered from the exertions thanks to the professional care is now once again clear. “Almost every one of the ten chameleon species has now laid eggs with us. In the wild, every one is at risk from habitat degradation and smuggling. The first to hatch was the Nguru dwarf chameleon, which is even threatened with extinction due to its small distribution area,” reports zoo director Stephan Hering-Hagenbeck proudly. Adult Nguru dwarf chameleons are only six centimeters tall. The tiny young animals measure just one centimeter when they hatch. There is also half a centimeter of tail.
The Schönbrunn Zoo is always the first point of contact for customs in the case of rare, confiscated species. But the chameleons were a challenge even for the experts. “These chameleon species have hardly been kept in human care until now. We contacted the few owners and did meticulous research in order to meet the requirements of the animals, ”says zoological curator Anton Weissenbacher. The effort is enormous: a separate room was set up. A zoo keeper was kept busy just looking after the chameleons all day. The Nguru dwarf chameleon has never been bred in a zoo before. In the past two weeks, 12 young animals have hatched in Schönbrunn. It is now hoped to be able to build up reserve populations in human care with the existing animals and the offspring in order to counteract the extinction of these species.
Special thanks to Octavia Buschhaus for the video voice-over translation: