Supporting Chameleon Conservation: Chameleon Specialist Group Fundraiser

Chris Anderson

Dr. House of Chameleons
Staff member
Hi Everyone,

As chameleon keepers, breeders and generally chameleon enthusiasts, we often focus on chameleons in captivity, but I think everyone here would agree that we also have a similar appreciation for chameleons in the wild as well. Part of appreciating chameleons in the wild, however, necessarily requires us to understand the conservation status of the family as a whole and individual species on their own. Unfortunately the conservation status of many chameleon species has only recently become well documented, and many still remain unassessed.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is the international standard for assessing the extent to which species are facing extinction. These assessments provide a cornerstone for conservation action and are invaluable summaries of our knowledge on status and biology of different species, with the potential to reveal trends that indicate whether conservation efforts are effective or not. To date, just over half of all chameleon species have been assessed, but in order to understand the conservation status of not only the remaining species, but the family as a whole, these assessments need to be completed.

Some recent work has revealed that nearly one in five reptile species (19%) are threatened with extinction, with an additional 7% being estimated as Near Threatened (Böhme et al., 2013, Biological Conservation 157, 372-385). While this figure is horrifying in and of itself, as chameleon enthusiasts, we should also be thinking about the conservation status of chameleons themselves. Unfortunately, in contrast to this global trend of all reptiles, the majority of chameleon species (63%) that have had their conservation status assessed by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species are categorized as Threatened or Near Threatened (i.e., Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, or Near Threatened), indicating that chameleons may be under a disproportionately large level of threat.

The dramatic difference in the proportion of chameleons classified as Threatened or Near Threatened relative to the already troubling global average for reptiles may be the result of a concentration in the chameleon species having been assessed being from Madagascar. It appears likely, however, that once all chameleons are assessed, this trend will continue to hold true as many remaining species are endemic to small geographic areas and inhabit tropical forests, which are themselves threatened habitats. In order to better evaluate the threats to the family as a whole and to help develop and monitor effective conservation strategies, we need to assess the remaining chameleon species for their conservation status as well.

As a result, the IUCN Chameleon Specialist Group has pledged to undertake the assessment of more than 60 additional species, primarily from East Africa (the largest major gap in finished assessments), in 2013. The Chameleon Specialist Group (CSG) is a small group of experts from around the world that volunteer their time, energy and knowledge to the conservation of chameleons, but the CSG activities are not funded. As a result, the CSG needs everyone’s help to enable us to hold a meeting of experts for assessing the remaining chameleon species, and to put into practice some of the recommendation made by the CSG for the Threatened Species. To do these assessments, a team of these experts need to meet for a few days in 2013 and bring together their expertise, to determine which species are under threat. We urgently need your assistance to do that!

To meet that end, the CSG have developed a fundraising campaign to build money to help pay for this workshop. It will enable the CSG to bring together a group of key experts from around the world who specialize in chameleons and particularly topics ranging from chameleon trade issues and statistics to individual expertise in particular regions, etc. Please visit this page and consider donating to this cause: http://www.rockethub.com/projects/24942-chameleons-under-threat-conservation-and-actions

Thank you all for your help on this project!

Chris
 

Brad

Administrator
Staff member
Conservation Award

Chameleon conservation is an important topic that should be of interest to all chameleon enthusiasts. It is our responsibility as humans to preserve the diverse life found on our planet; we won’t get a second chance. I want to thank the Chameleon Specialist Group (CSG) for taking this initiative, and I also want to strongly encourage forum members to consider a small donation if possible. Chameleon Forums assumes a responsibility to do what it can to help. One idea that we have moved forward with is the creation of a Conservation Award that members can choose to receive if they donate to this cause.


Conservation Award

If you would like an award please follow the instructions below.

1. Contribute to the Chameleon Specialist Group Fundraiser at Rockethub.

2. Email Chris Anderson ([email protected]) with the following information:
A. Your username at Chameleon Forums.​
B. The email address associated with your Rockethub account.​

3. Wait for the information to be verified and for the award to be added to your forum account.


It should be noted that two members of the CSG, Chris Anderson and Niels Pedersen, are active at Chameleon Forums and we thank them for their dedication to the animals we love.


Thank you for your contribution to this effort: absolutbill, Action Jackson, AsiaKauffman, Chuck G, CNorton, cosmic charlie, d3s5, deadhd5, Decadancin, drcrossfire, ferretinmyshoes, hallenhe, jannb, LovitaVelvet, Motherlode Chameleon, ponders, raphael14, SSimsswiSS, summoner12, thephotoprincess, Todnedo
 
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Motherlode Chameleon

Chameleon Enthusiast
I'm definitely going to work with and contribute to the Chameleon Specialist Group. This is the beginning of something big. Once the initial data has been collected and assessed it is going to have to be updated for renewed status from time to time for accuracy for the IUCN Red List. This is going to be a great way for the Chameleon Forums community to be active for important chameleon conservation.

I could handle a Conservation Award too.
 
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Chris Anderson

Dr. House of Chameleons
Staff member
Thank you all for the support so far! We already have gotten seven people to donate since we posted the project on Friday, including at least 6 forum members! Still a long ways to reach our goal, but we're off to a great start!

Chris
 

ferretinmyshoes

Veterinarian
Staff member
Happy to help! Thank you Chris and colleagues for your part in helping research and conserve these wonderful animals! We need more people like you! :)
 

Chris Anderson

Dr. House of Chameleons
Staff member
Let's keep this going! If everyone gives a little, it will be huge.
Yep, exactly! It doesn't have to be a huge donation, but if everyone donates a little, it adds up quickly! It would be awesome if we could meet and then exceed our goal!

Note also that there are Corporate Sponsor options available. Check out the section in the project information on the left if you might be interested in that!: http://www.rockethub.com/projects/24942-chameleons-under-threat-conservation-and-actions

Chris
 

Decadancin

Moderatoris Americanus
Staff member
Hey Brad, you may want to post this as a sticky so it doesn't get lost in the threads! ;) Great cause and hope to get lots of participation!!! :D Thanks for posting Chris! :cool:
 

Chris Anderson

Dr. House of Chameleons
Staff member
Hi Everyone,

Thank you all for the donations so far. We're slowly climbing toward our goal! Lets keep it up!

Don't forget, if you're a forum member and donate, send me an email with your CF user name and the email address associated with the Rockethub account you donated from, so I can let Brad know to issue you a Conservation Award!

Thanks again and if you haven't already, check out the fundraising page: http://www.rockethub.com/projects/24942-chameleons-under-threat-conservation-and-actions

Chris
 

tucc185

Member
Hey there Chris, others. I'm interested in supporting this cause, as I know precious little data exists with regards to the conservation status of wild chameleons, but I do have some qualms before offering the financial support of myself or my company. In other IUCN assessments (not specifically reptile related) I have seen the pet trade vilified and singled out as being unsustainable despite other threats like development related habitat destruction representing >90% of the anthropogenic stresses to a species or species group. I am of the opinion (and research corroborates this) that a careful, sustainable trade in wild species can be a powerful tool for conservation so I am hesitant to offer backing to another initiative that will advocate for the elimination of the trade. What are your thoughts on this?
 

Chris Anderson

Dr. House of Chameleons
Staff member
Hey there Chris, others. I'm interested in supporting this cause, as I know precious little data exists with regards to the conservation status of wild chameleons, but I do have some qualms before offering the financial support of myself or my company. In other IUCN assessments (not specifically reptile related) I have seen the pet trade vilified and singled out as being unsustainable despite other threats like development related habitat destruction representing >90% of the anthropogenic stresses to a species or species group. I am of the opinion (and research corroborates this) that a careful, sustainable trade in wild species can be a powerful tool for conservation so I am hesitant to offer backing to another initiative that will advocate for the elimination of the trade. What are your thoughts on this?
You definitely bring up a valid concern and I'm happy to give you my thoughts on it.

First I'd like to note that these assessments are designed to provide information on the global status of individual taxa. The Red List assessments are not themselves designed to support legislation in one way or another, particularly since quotas and legislation are often designed for more regional or local scales that may not be accurately reflected by a global trend. The assessments may be utilized to make recommendations to other authorities, but are not themselves designed or intended to push any particular agenda.

The IUCN Red List Assessments are based on a wide range of criteria (http://jr.iucnredlist.org/documents/redlist_cats_crit_en.pdf) and certain conditions have to be met for taxa to be assessed to each category. It is designed to be objective in its classification so that it can be done consistently and broadly across taxonomic groups. One thing you will find, however, is that every assessment has to cite the criteria and subcriteria that were met for categorization. As a result, in all cases you can see exactly what criteria were used to assess the threat level of that species, so there should be no confusion about why it qualifies as a particular treat level. Further, in the process of assessing each species, all observed, estimated, inferred or suspected trends and threats are outlined and they try to thoroughly include them in the assessment.

For instance, I'll draw your attention to the IUCN Red List Assessment of Rhampholeon spinosus, which is classified as Endangered (http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/176323/0). One of the sections on each assessment is the "Assessment Information":

Assessment Information

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered B1ab(iii) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Assessor/s: Mariaux, J.
Reviewer/s: Böhm, M., Collen, B. & Ram, M. (Sampled Red List Index Coordinating Team)
Contributor/s: LeBreton, M., De Silva, R., Milligan, H.T., Wearn, O.R., Wren, S., Zamin, T., Sears, J., Wilson, P., Lewis, S., Lintott, P. & Powney, G.
Justification:
Rhampholeon spinosum has been assessed as Endangered due to its estimated extent of occurrence of approximately 3,250 km², its found at two localities (western and eastern Usambaras), and the ongoing loss and degradation of its habitat. Deforestation caused by agricultural development, livestock grazing, fire, and illegal logging poses a major threat to this species as it is intolerant of environmental modification.
From this, you can see that it was assessed as Endangered based on criteria B1ab(iii), which if you look at the criteria, means that:

B. Geographic range in the form of either B1 (extent of occurrence) OR B2 (area of occupancy) OR both:

1. Extent of occurrence estimated to be less than 5,000 km2, and estimates indicating at least two of a-c:

a. Severely fragmented or known to exist at no more than five locations.
b. Continuing decline, observed, inferred or projected, in any of the following:
(iii) area, extent and/or quality of habitat
And you can see the justification specifically outlined in the section as well. Further down in the assessment, you will see a "Threats" section that provides additional information on threats, including threats that may exist but were not the cause of the category the species was assessed to. You will also see a "Conservation Actions" section, which provide information on current conservation efforts:

Threats

Major Threat(s): This species is reported to be extremely vulnerable to habitat loss (Spawls et al. 2002). Deforestation is a major threat to this species. By 1998 the Usambara Mountains had lost 71% of its original forest cover (Newmark 1998). Expanding cultivation, fire, livestock grazing, and illegal logging have all been cited as the causes of high rates of deforestation (The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund 2005). Mease and Dell (2003) note that an increasing number of tea plantations in the region are also responsible for habitat change. The region is becoming highly fragmented, with the remaining natural forest in the region split into 25 different fragments.

Many chameleon species in East Africa are collected for the pet trade and medicinal use (CITES 2005). The export quota for 2010 was eighteen individuals, all of which were recorded as captive-bred (CITES 2010). However, it is not known how severe this threat is to wild populations of this species.

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions: There are no known specific conservation measures in place for this species. This species was previously classified under the genus Bradypodion and it would have received protection under Appendix II of CITES, however, there are no species of its current genus on the CITES list. Trade management is therefore required. This species is found within forest reserves, however, it is reported as uncommon in these areas and therefore further research is required to understand the habitat requirements of this species. Monitoring is needed to assess the impact that the high rates of habitat loss are having on its population size.
As you can see, these assessments try to summarize all threats, but it is very specific about what is the cause of the listing. It is important to summarize all threats, however, because regardless of what is causing the listing, these other threats can contribute to future population decline or instability. The fact of the matter is, however, that not all trade is going to necessarily be sustainable at its current levels and there may be cases in some species (not necessarily chameleon species) where trade may be a major contributing factor to the assessment. We have to understand and document all threats, however.

My role in these assessments is not only to bring additional chameleon knowledge and experience in the field to the group, but also to bring my trade knowledge to the table. I have and have reviewed the existing CITES trade statistics for each species and know the trends in the trade of different species and genera, and the trade from different importing and exporting countries. Additionally, I have first hand knowledge of the limitations of some of the trade statistics, such as knowledge that the trade statistics for "K. fischeri" are not actually indicative of the trade in true K. fischeri, but primarily the trade in K. multituberculata, etc. These are all important pieces of information to accurately assess the threats to each of these species and I was chosen as one of the team members for the workshop specifically so that this expertise could be included.

Anyway, I hope that helps clarify the importance of this work, why I think it is worth any inherent risk, and why I think the risk is minimal given the way the assessments are performed, presented, etc.

So, if you haven't already, please visit the page and consider donating: http://www.rockethub.com/projects/24942-chameleons-under-threat-conservation-and-actions

Best,

Chris
 
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