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Chameleons Not Seen By Scientists For 100 Years Found in a Madagascar Hotel Garden


Lost for 106 years, a species of chameleon was recently rediscovered by scientists working with Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) as part of their “Top 25 Most Wanted List” of missing species.

Voeltzkow Female Chameleon, Kathrin Glaw

First discovered in 1893 and last seen in 1913, the Voeltzkow chameleon was rediscovered in the Mahajanga region of northwestern Madagascar, the most biodiverse area for chameleons on the island they call home. It was discovered by Frank Glaw and his team from the Department of Vertebrates of the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology.

Far from having to venture into dark, smoky jungles full of thorns, spikes, bites and poison, more than 15 chameleons from Voeltzkow were found in the last two days of the expedition, resting in the garden of a neglected hotel in the city.

“It was a special blend of great pleasure, excitement and relief,” said expedition leader Frank Glaw. Mongabay in an email.

“Our efforts were completely unsuccessful for most of the trip to find him where we thought he would probably be. That was really frustrating, but the rediscovery during the last days of the trip changed everything immediately and brought us an incredibly happy ending, ”Glaw told GWC.

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The expedition was always going to be a challenge, as Voeltzkow’s closest chameleon relatives, Labord’s chameleons, live for only 4-5 months during the winter, giving the team a very short chance of finding the little ones. especially since winter in Madagascar. It is the rainy season when many roads become unusable.

A colorful surprise

The team found three men and 15 women in all. 100 years ago, as detailed by Klaw’s corresponding paper, the only specimens collected for the study were males, significantly limiting the information available on the species.

the documentation by Klaw et al. gives science the first description of the female Voeltzkow’s chameleon. Both sexes are green with some black and white accents when calm, but if they get stressed, angry, stimulate human handling, or experience changes in hormones during mating, they can turn black and white and streaked with a line of three red dots. along its back, or indigo color, with a grid pattern of white, indigo and black stripes.

Male and female Voeltzkow chameleon, Frank Glaw

“The Voeltzkow chameleon adds color and beauty to the planet, and reminds us that even when all seems lost, a great adventure can rekindle hope even for species we have not seen since Woodrow Wilson was president.” said Don Church, president of GWC and leader of the Search for Lost Species program. “We now have a lot to learn about this extraordinary reptile, including the best way to save it from extinction.”

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The International Union for Conservation of Nature is the world’s authority on endangered species, and the discoverers are of the opinion that Voeltzkow’s chameleon should immediately be listed as endangered according to IUCN criteria, although the IUCN has not conducted an assessment. official about his Red List.

Conservation enthusiasts will be encouraged to hear that it appears that this chameleon does not require intact dry forests to survive as many chameleons do, and can potentially live in many different habitats.

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Now with the Voeltzkow Chameleon officially found, that means the list of 25 has been shortened to 19, with Jackson’s climbing salamander, Wallace’s giant bee, velvet pitcher plant, silver-backed chevrotain, and Somali sengi being rediscovered in the last three detailed in our GNN article.

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