About a year ago, at the end of January 2021, there was a lot of excitement in Schönbrunn Zoo. More than 70 smuggled, strictly protected chameleons from the Usambara Mountains in Tanzania were confiscated at Schwechat Airport. Among them were the highly endangered prickly-nosed, two-horned and dwarf chameleons. Schönbrunn Zoo took on the emergency care of the exotic animals and housed them in special terrariums. “Chameleons are solitary animals and therefore have to be kept and fed individually, they only come together to mate. Caring for these demanding animals is a particular challenge for us, but it pays off,” says district manager Inez Walter. “In the meantime, all of the rare chameleon species have laid eggs, and the young of three species have already hatched.”
There were even more than 80 offspring of the Nguru dwarf chameleons last year. Adult animals are just under six centimeters tall – the tiny young animals measure just one centimeter plus half a centimeter tail. “The Nguru dwarf chameleon is bred in only one other zoo in the world besides ours. We are therefore particularly proud that the work of our team of specialists was rewarded so quickly with these breeding successes,” says zoo director Stephan Hering-Hagenbeck. “We hope to be able to build up reserve populations outside of the threatened natural habitat with our offspring in order to counteract the extinction of these species.” In the wild, all of the rescued chameleon species are endangered or even threatened with extinction due to habitat destruction and smuggling.
Photo credit: Daniel Zupanc
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