Chameleon’s true colours revealed


Members of the team delivering the lecture on Friday at the ICCS

Led by Dr Chris Raxworthy of the American Museum of Natural History, the team includes Bärbel Koch, Anna Gray and Marc Jean-Baptiste, the Vallée de Mai Site manager.

The team previously did a research into the chameleon populations at the Vallée de Mai and sites on Mahé in 2009, and made the exciting discovery of a second species.

For this new survey the team is visiting different locations on Mahé, Praslin, La Digue, Silhouette, Frégate and Curieuse to find out more about the distribution of the two species, and describe differences that may exist between the chameleons on each island.

Currently, chameleons are not known from La Digue, Frégate or Curieuse, but the team is hoping to find new populations.

With the support of the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF) the team gave a public lecture last Friday at the International Conference Centre (ICCS) where they explained what’s known about the chameleons at present, and what they hope to find out.

Speaking after the presentation, Bärbel Koch said: “This new method of searching for chameleons by torchlight at night has proven to be very successful – we have found nearly 200 chameleons to date.”

Anna Gray said: “By conducting research at night, we have had the privilege of seeing the forest come alive with reptiles and amphibians, and are still on a high from finding 26 chameleons on Silhouette. After the success of 2009, it’s great to be back, and although we’re not sure what we might find on the various islands, it’s a fantastic opportunity to discover more and to share what we’re learning.”

And Marc Jean-Baptiste added: “Once you see these chameleons, you discover that they are amazing animals. I hope more people will do night safaris to find out for themselves that chameleons are really not to be feared or disliked.”

The Seychelles chameleons are Archaius tigris and Archaius scychellensis, but the two species had not been correctly recognised as distinct for almost 200 years, and are known by the single name of Kameleon in Kreol. The team has already observed some differences between the populations on Mahé, Silhouette and Praslin.

“This survey represents a wonderful chance to find new chameleon populations that will provide new opportunities for conservation and research in the Seychelles. The Seychelles chameleon has been a powerful symbol and flagship species for the islands’ biodiversity, so it is especially exciting to find out that there is actually a second species hiding here in the forests,” said Dr Raxworthy.

In addition to SIF, other organisations which assisted the team include the Islands Development Company, Island Conservation Society, Frégate Island and its Ecology team, National Botanical Garden Foundation and Seychelles National Parks Authority. The team is also grateful to the Seychelles Bureau of Standards and the Department of Environment for approving this research.

The project fieldwork will conclude on February 11 and the findings of the research are expected to be published later this year.

A second public presentation will be given on Thursday at 2pm at the Vallée de Mai. For more information people may call the SIF on 4321735.