Madagascar Chameleons

Kent67

Retired Moderator
Hate to get up on the high-horse here again but for those who don't know, international trade in all but four species of chameleons (not including Brookesia) from Madagascar was suspended in 1994 by THE one and only international group concerned with protecting this planet's species from over-exploitation by man. As so many seem to think, the reason we can't get parsonii in the States is NOT because the US and Malagasy governments can't agree on something. It IS because an international group of 171 countries called CITES(similar to the United Nations, NATO, etc) got together and decided it was in ALL of these animal's best interests to not allow commercial trade until population studies were conducted AND proved that collection for the pet trade would not be detrimental to the species' survival. That was in 1994. Thirteen years ago. IF the exporters could/can prove that what they were doing prior to that wasn't hurting the population numbers significantly, the suspension WOULD have been lifted. Why haven't they? The current prices for these animals clearly show that a huge demand still exists.

When I first got into chameleon keeping, the wave of Madagascar animals had just begun and all of these species were frequently available. Anyone remember Madagascar USA or Reptile Specialties? Countless numbers were imported into the US and very few of the species were reproduced successfully. If I think about the actual number of parsonii imported into the US versus the number of specimens born up until now here, the disparity makes me feel really guilty. The habitat niches that some of these species inhabit in Madagascar are becoming smaller and smaller due to human's population growth. The Malagasy government as well as many other international conservation agencies know the importance of protecting these places as well as the vast biodiversity of the island and they are doing what they can.

I understand completely the desires many newer chameleon keepers have about wanting to keep these rare and exceedingly beautiful animals. I also know more than a few former chameleon keepers who have been around so long, and have seen so much on the import/business side that they are now fervently against anyone keeping any chameleons in captivity. I am somewhere in between it seems. I think there are certain species like pardalis and calyptratus that do well in captivity into multiple generations and that the controlled export of these species from their native countries strengthens captive gene pools without hurting the wild populations. On the other hand, every large pet shop I go to seems to have Fischer's chameleons for sale. Six thousand are legally exported from Tanzania each year. How many captive bred babies have you seen/heard about in the last couple years? How many melleri are produced in captivity each year compared to the 3,000 exported from Tanzania? Some of the best keepers/breeders have been working with these species for many years without sustainable successes. The same can be said for most of the species from Madagascar. Many people knew beforehand about the suspension and "stocked up" on animals to create breeding colonies. However, very few of these animals remained alive within just a couple of years after the suspension, and fewer reproduced. I'm afraid the notion that if parsonii were imported to the US again that there would be a drastic change in breeding success is somewhat misguided. Over many clutches laid and breeding attempts tried, the numbers of successfully raised hatchlings just can't justify the numbers that were taken out of the wild and known to have hurt and in some cases decimated local populations in Madagascar.

Smuggling is (supposed to be) illegal; whether it's drugs, weapons, endangered species, whatever. Where there is money to be made, there will be people who do it. I'm certainly no angel, but I do feel strongly about protecting nature that can't protect itself and this time it's animals that have fascinated me for most of my life. Beyond me, it is important to the planet that we not destroy more of its species, especially not because we think they look nice in cages.

Sorry for the rant, but as a community, I hope we all make the right decisions and that we can continue to enjoy these animals. The biggest threats at the moment are habitat loss, over exploitation for the pet trade, and ill-informed legislators trying to ban the keeping of all exotics.

For more, here are some links to articles that fully explain the situation with Madagascar, its chameleons, and CITES:
http://www.chamaeleonidae.com/trade.html
http://www.chameleonnews.com/year2002/sept2002/trade/trade.html
 
Last edited:

Brad

Administrator
Staff member
Thanks for the post hairfarm. This is a subject I have interest in and I think a lot of other members do as well.

So, any idea how they get there? Does Germany just not enforce international wildlife laws? It is a CITES member country, after all. Is it that export permits list them as Chamaeleo labordi, rather than Furcifer labordi which is restricted and the agents checking imports don't know they're the same? Even if they were not imported through the proper channels, there is no way people would sell those species in public here, like at a show, because of US Fish and Wildlife.

I would think the prices would serve as a good indicator as to whether or not they were legally imported. Well, this has me all fired up so I'm gonna start a new thread....

There are unfortunately many ways that exporters and smugglers have been circumventing the importation ban set by CITES. Below are a few of the illegal strategies I learned about from a conversation with Ardi Abate (CiN).
  1. Shipments from Madagascar containing illicit species are labeled with the names of legal species or with permits that do not identify the species at all.

  2. Shipments from Madagascar (MG) are routed to other countries. Fraudulent permits are then created that indicate the specimens originated from a country other than MG or that they were captive-bred in that country.

  3. Shipments of wild-taken chameleons are smuggled out of MG by sea using speedboats, thereby avoiding detection at airports by custom inspectors and avoiding the paper trail.

  4. Shipments of wild-taken chameleons are smuggled out of MG concealed in other types of freight. This often includes a very high mortality rate and does not leave a paper trail.
 

Marc10edora

Avid Member
I was wondering if there are any organizations that allow successfull cham breeders to breed endangered species and re-introduce them back into the wild? If I ever get into breeding, in the far distant future, that is what I would want to do.
 

Heika

New Member
I have heard stories of a parsonii breeding operation in Indonesia under the care of a well known chameleon keeper. Supposedly, this breeding operation is under the supervision of the government, but I wonder how much supervision a program like this would get in a third world country with many other, more important issues taking precedence? I have been told that the breeding stock of parsonii came from a time before CITES. I suppose that could be theoretically true, but it seems a bit hard to swallow to me, especially when some of the orders coming into our country have been mixed with other calumma species that were mislabeled as parsonii. How does a globifer or a oshaughnessi end up mixed in with a batch of supposedly cb parsonii? And, more curious, what happened to those animals? Surely, a buyer was found on the black market.

This is a dangerous topic, and politically loaded. Yes, parsonii are beautiful chameleons. But, some of us really think that by purchasing these animals that come into the country from.. ahem.. Europe.. we would be supporting illegal exporters.

For those that have them now.. I really hope they have a complete understanding of how important it is to responsibly keep and breed their precious parsonii. They can't be shipped back to wherever they came from, but maybe the offspring of these animals will help to fulfill some of the ruthless demand in this country for the species.

Great topic, by the way.

Heika
 
Last edited:

roo_71

New Member
I agree, there are many species that do well in captivity and those are what should only be available in the pet trade. I also think that a permit should be required to own one and they shouldn’t be sold in pet stores either.

Saving the planet …

Lost cause. Not to sound like a sociopath but the best thing for this planet is for humans to just go away. I think we have this primordial instinct to just collect and consume since you never now what tomorrow will bring, however we are not cave people and we don’t need to do that anymore. Couple that with just flat out greed and this planet is basically F’ed. The needs of the many (environment/nature) should outweigh the needs of the few (us) but that just inst the case. Hopefully something will kill us all of b/f we learn to colonize other planets. Have a nice day everyone :).

-roo
 

kinyonga

Chameleon Enthusiast
Marc10edora said.."I was wondering if there are any organizations that allow successfull cham breeders to breed endangered species and re-introduce them back into the wild? If I ever get into breeding, in the far distant future, that is what I would want to do"...its a wonderful thought....but there is a lot to consider. Once an animal is taken away from where it breeds naturally/lives naturally it is subject to different germs, diseases, etc. If these animals are bred and raised there and put back into the wild where their parents came from these germs, diseases, etc. can be introduced to the wild population and the wild ones might not be able to handle them....just like in the movie "Medicine Man" and in history like when the Europeans introduced small pox to the Canadian/American Indians.

"During the French and Indian Wars, blankets from smallpox patients were given to native Indian populations by British soldiers, with subsequent epidemics killing up to 50% of affected tribes."
http://www.hmc.psu.edu/healthinfo/s/smallpox.htm

"During the 1770s, smallpox (variola major) eradicates at least 30 percent of the native population on the Northwest coast of North America, including numerous members of Puget Sound tribes."
http://www.historylink.org/essays/output.cfm?file_id=5100

Each animal has its territory in the wild and where would you introduce the ones you hatched so that they would not have to fight for their own territory? This might be less of a concern for chameleons than it would be for some animals where the food might be in shorter supply.

The fact that they were bred and raised in captivity may also put them in a position of not having the natural survival instincts that those in the wild have.

Concerning genetics...if the offspring of the ones that were taken from the wild in the first place where introduced to another area to breed with a different population it would affect the gene pool. Sometimes this is good and sometimes its not.

This site refers to lorises...but some of what is said there would apply to most reintorduced species...
http://www.loris-conservation.org/database/Reintroduction.html

"Instead of taking a species-by-species crisis approach to conservation, we should focus on preserving the ecosystems that support a wide variety of plants and animals"...
http://www.yale.edu/opa/newsr/96-06-12-01.all.html

I'm not saying that reintroduction of captive bred animals can't be done....but it needs to be done properly....with little or no risk to the remaining wild population. There's a lot to think about before its done, IMHO.
 

Greenstar

New Member
You guys are forgetting the key element in why Cb chams and other animals can not be put back into the wild. They have to go back to their correct habitat and that habitat needs to be set aside to provide future protection for the animals. As more of Madagascar is being logged, switched over to plantation and slash and burned, there is less and less room for these animals to reside.

Just my .02

Danny
 

PEPPERQUILL1

New Member
Check out the other post.I import regularly and are very farmiliar with the laws both CITES US and Non-US.The Malagasy goverment honestly does not care about the wildlife, or they wouldn't still be issuing permits for slash/burn they also would not let locals buy and sell radiated tortoises (endagered species) as a food source.Just because people have rare chams doesent mean they were collected illigally again their are farms in Madagascar that do breed chameleons and a percentage from one farm are exported with f1 permits to Europe each year.
 

Kent67

Retired Moderator
CITES has not lifted the suspension and has in recent years only reinforced it in further notifications because of the problems with the Malagasy government and enforcement on their end. If the MA in Madagascar is willing to write permits for f1 status, then it's up to the destination country as to whether or not they are allowed in. The USFW has decided not to recognize farm-raised chams from Madagascar as being exempt from the suspension. Until someone attempts to challenge that again and risk losing their shipment, we won't know if that's changed.
 

pohchunyee

Avid Member
I have heard stories of a parsonii breeding operation in Indonesia under the care of a well known chameleon keeper. Supposedly, this breeding operation is under the supervision of the government, but I wonder how much supervision a program like this would get in a third world country with many other, more important issues taking precedence? I have been told that the breeding stock of parsonii came from a time before CITES. I suppose that could be theoretically true, but it seems a bit hard to swallow to me, especially when some of the orders coming into our country have been mixed with other calumma species that were mislabeled as parsonii. How does a globifer or a oshaughnessi end up mixed in with a batch of supposedly cb parsonii? And, more curious, what happened to those animals? Surely, a buyer was found on the black market.

This is a dangerous topic, and politically loaded. Yes, parsonii are beautiful chameleons. But, some of us really think that by purchasing these animals that come into the country from.. ahem.. Europe.. we would be supporting illegal exporters.

For those that have them now.. I really hope they have a complete understanding of how important it is to responsibly keep and breed their precious parsonii. They can't be shipped back to wherever they came from, but maybe the offspring of these animals will help to fulfill some of the ruthless demand in this country for the species.

Great topic, by the way.

Heika

I totally agree with Heika (I have to make this clear, i have no association with Heika but a passion for Chameleon; so please don't say this as a PLOT!!! People loves to misinterpret stuff and make it very edgy)

HEIKA
Parson Breeding facilities in Indonesia...OMG>.. when i go back to Malaysia, i am going to fly to Indonesia and possibly help them in breeding Parson. (Oh yeah, any Indonesian will hate you if you said that their country is a 3rd world country; they considered themself as "developing country".)

True, this is a very dangerous topic... a lot of politics and $$$$$$$$$ involved. I am from Malaysia, i will use Malaysia as an example. In Malaysia, we have a type of soft shell turtles (considered a delicacy in China). Last year a few thousand WC soft shell turtles were smuggled in a truck into Thailand. It is then got turned into a farm raised soft shell turtle and then shipped to China (they were caught and posted in Malaysian News paper). What I was trying to say here is that people will try to to get chameleon (legal and illegally) from the wild. Once it is successfully shipped out of Madagascar, they can be labeled as anything from Legal import from the quota to a CB chameleons. And us as the buyer, we have to realize the origin of our chameleon, are they really CB specimens?
 

Dankmeleon

New Member
why are parsonii so difficult to successfully reproduce in captivity, you'd think one of these chameleon ballers would have already been on top of that
 

Kent67

Retired Moderator
Interesting data from CIN#41:
According to data from CITES World Conservation Monitoring Centre 18,737 Parson's chameleons were exported from Madagascar from 1986 to 1998. Most were during the 8 years before the suspension in '95. As the heaviest species of chameleon, they weigh between 300 to 600 grams. Let's call it an average of say 450 grams each. That is EIGHT TONS of Parson's chameleons, of which it was estimated roughly 1%(186 pounds)were still alive by Fall 2001.
 

Tygerr

Avid Member
Until you fully grasp the economics in Africa, you won't understand that the protection of wildlife in Africa falls way down on the list of priorities for any governement in Africa.

The Malagasy goverment honestly does not care about the wildlife, or they wouldn't still be issuing permits for slash/burn they also would not let locals buy and sell radiated tortoises (endagered species) as a food source.
You're quite right. The Malagasy government probably doesn't care primarily about wildlife. The sad truth about democracy is that the endangered tortoises and chameleons aren't going to be the ones voting for the next government. And so in order for the government to secure the popular vote, they have to address the issues that are important to their people.
And I'm afraid that the issues that are important to people in Africa, are not the same issues that are important to people in Europe or North America.
Widespread poverty and unemployment, diseases like AIDS, malnutrition, inadequate housing, poor education and lack of access to medical help rank far higher on the political agendas here than wildlife conservation does.

This is the economic reality: most people who live in the areas where chameleons are found survive on wages of less than 1 US Dollar per day. Yet, chameleon keepers around the world are willing to pay upwards of $100 (and for some species, way, way more) just to keep a chameleon as a pet. You can understand why the WC chams are still being supplied. Even if he gets only $5 for every chameleon he finds in the bushes near his house (which is what most of the unscrupulous exporters will pay), the African man is still earning way more than he could imagine. And so WC chams will continue to be supplied into the market as long as Americans and Europeans are willing to take them.

So yes, as has been mentioned, it really is up to the buyers of WC chameleons to do something about this problem - it certainly won't be stopped by the African governments.

But there is more you can do than simply refusing WC chams. In order to make Africans start focussing on wildlife problems, you first have to make all their other more pressing problems go away.
By supporting initiatives like Live 8, and by forcing your governments in Europe and America to address the economic problems in Africa, eventually maybe Africa can solve the problems plaguing humans here, and can then start dealing with problems facing the environment.
Hopefully that will happen whilst there is still some wildlife left here to save.

That's just my 2 cents (and given the current exchange rate, it's probably not worth as much as an American's 2 cents, but hopefully someone will be listening).
 

Kent67

Retired Moderator
Although 2 cents is 2 cents, I think yours may be more valuable as you've actually seen and experienced what you're talking about. Very well said and important insight to the issue. Agreed, it is incorrect to assume that African governments don't care about their wildlife, just that it is down low on their list of priorities. Unfortunately, the "West" still seems determined to keep Africa low on its list of priorities as well.

With the amount of resources available, enforcement of whatever regulations they have is almost impossible. Been hearing about the mountain gorillas being "executed" in protected national forests? These animals are considered so important that they have armed guards patrolling the area to protect them. Yet, somehow they are still under assault by humans with guns.

Madagascar is in even less shape to do anything about the exploitation of its wildlife. Madagascar does not have the resources to issue permits for local farmers in the middle of nowhere to do slash and burn agriculture, that is silly. As well, the local people have always incorporated tortoise meat into their diets and so it is part of their culture. The government simply does not have the resources to stop it.
 
Top Bottom