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Red Chameleon Feared Extinct Found

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The 2-inch-long world’s smallest and rarest chameleon found alive in the rainforests of Africa. Chapman’s pygmy chameleon was feared extinct since its initial discovery in the 1990s because of massive deforestation of its native forest in the Malawi Hills.

A research team from the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and the Museums of Malawi made the discovery in 2016. They saw the first chameleon on the edge of a forest.

Chapman’s pygmy chameleons to just 2.2 inches long and walk on the forest floor. They disguise themselves by matching the pattern of dead leaves. They were first discovered in a dwindling rainforest in the Malawi Hills in 1992 and were later released into a separate forest 59 miles (95 kilometers) away near Mikundi, also in Malawi, to increase their chances of survival, according to the statement.  

The team compared modern satellite images of the Malawi Hills forest to those taken in the 1980s and estimated that the forest has declined by 80%. The researchers identified areas where the chameleons could still be living and surveyed them by walking along forest trails at night with torches when they are easier to spot.

They found 17 adult chameleons across two forest patches in the Malawi Hills, and 21 adult chameleons and 11 juveniles in one patch near Mikundi. More chameleons may well exist in other forest patches.

The study, published in Oryx—The International Journal of Conservation, was led by Professor Krystal Tolley from the South African National Biodiversity Institute and the University of the Witwatersrand.

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