Conservationists at Chester Zoo have become the first ever in the UK to breed the rare Parson’s chameleon, according to official records.
Parson’s chameleon is the largest chameleon in the world, and is indigenous to Madagascar, where their population has declined by more than 20 percent in the last two decades.
So far, 10 chameleons have hatches from their eggs, with 17 more still in incubation. The first hatchling was just 2 centimetres long and weighed just 1.5 days after 569 days in incubation, the longest incubation period in the world.
Adults grow to be around 70 centimetres and weigh roughly 800 grams.
Team Manager of reptiles at Chester Zoo, Jay Redbond, said: “To be the first UK zoo to successfully hatch a clutch of Parson’s chameleons is a momentous event for the team here – but most importantly it’s a major breakthrough for the species.
“The levels of intricate care and attention to detail provided by team over a number of years to achieve this breeding success has been truly remarkable. We’ve had to carefully replicate the seasonal variations of Madagascar and mimic the exact same conditions these chameleons experience on the island, right here in Chester, and that’s no easy feat.
“Every slight tweak to temperature and humidity each day and night has been meticulously recorded and, now that we’ve cracked this, we believe we’ll be able to take this information and apply it to help save some of Madagascar’s other threatened reptile species.
“This important clutch of eggs, along with all that we’ve learned along the way, will now help us play a part in preventing the extinction of this incredible species, and many others just like it.”
The chameleon, scientifically named Calumma parsonii has lost a lot of its habitat on Madagascar due to deforestation and agriculture, and conservation efforts are essential to the species survival.
Gerardo Garcia, Curator of Lower Vertebrates & Invertebrates, added: “Our teams are currently on the ground in Madagascar, alongside our partners Madagasikara Voakajy, fighting to protect what’s left of the island’s beautiful forests and the species that call it home.
“The widespread destruction of the forests on the island has seen more than 90% of its trees cut down for agriculture and logging – taking with it hundreds of precious species that cannot be found anywhere else on Earth, just like the Parson’s chameleon.
“That’s why we need to learn as much as we can, as quickly as we can to help prevent species from becoming extinct. These new hatchlings may be small in stature for now, but their impact will be huge in helping us to accelerate our efforts to save some of Madagascar’s rarest reptiles.
“The information gathered by our experts will now go on to be shared with other conservation zoos just like ours, kick-starting global efforts to create a safety-net population of these incredible chameleons – and we’re enormously proud to have played a vital role in protecting their future on this planet.”
Parson’s chameleon got its name after British physician James Parsons, born in 1705.