13 Oct 2022

Our reptile experts have become the first in the UK to successfully breed the extremely rare Parson’s chameleon.

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So far 10 chameleons have emerged from their eggs, with another 17 still in incubation. Parson’s chameleons currently hold the record for the longest incubation period of any reptile – the process of the eggs being laid and then hatching taking up to around two years.

The first of the rare hatchlings arrived measuring just 2cm long and weighing just 1.5 grams following a 569 day incubation period. They will grow to be around 70cm and 800 grams.

Conservationists at the zoo have described the breeding success as a “momentous event” and say that the skills and techniques developed to achieve the breakthrough could potentially help save other species from extinction.

“To be the first UK zoo to successfully hatch a clutch of Parson’s chameleons is a momentous and exciting event for the team here – but most importantly it’s a major breakthrough for the species.”

Jay Redbond, Team Manager of reptiles

Jay continued to say…

“The levels of intricate care and attention to detail provided by the 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.”

The Parson’s chameleon population has declined by more than 20% in the last two decades as a result of widespread habitat loss on the island of Madagascar. Its forest home has now become so fragmented that experts believe the reptiles are unlikely to survive without drastic intervention.

Gerardo Garcia, Curator of Lower Vertebrates & Invertebrates explains more:

“The widespread destruction of the forests on Madagascar 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.”

Gerardo continued to say:

“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.”