Flap-necked Chameleons: tiny “Ground Lions”

By: Limpopo-Lipadi | Date: May 31, 2024 | Reserve

Ever so often the guides of Limpopo-Lipadi suddenly make a full stop or a swoosh around things on the road they don’t want to run over. Leopard tortoise, ants, mopane worms, but also the well-camouflaged chameleons. So many stories attached to these fascinating creatures, so read on to learn more:

The flap-necked chameleon, fondly dubbed as the “Ground Lions” are native to Sub-Saharan Africa, belong to the lizard family. They exhibit dinosaur-like features with their mini dragon-like heads, prehensile five-toed feet, and agile tails. But what truly sets them apart is their remarkable ability to catch prey with finesse. With eyes that move independently, they can scan their surroundings 360 degrees, ensuring they never lose sight of their prey while on the hunt. Their binocular-like vision locks onto potential meals with precision, aided by lightning-fast tongue deployments that extend as long as their bodies, all happening in the blink of an eye!

Despite their awe-inspiring abilities, superstitions about chameleons still linger. From myths about shooting lightning from their eyes to being immortal, these misconceptions only pose a threat to their existence. Educating people about these magnificent creatures is crucial in dispelling such beliefs. For instance, the notion of their immortality might stem from the fascinating process of laying up to 60 eggs in a hole, with hatchlings emerging months later, giving the illusion of being born from their mother’s “bones”.

When threatened, these chameleons resort to an intimidating defensive display, inflating themselves, opening their mouths, and hissing. While their bites can be painful, they are not venomous. It’s no wonder the word “chameleon” derives from the Ancient Greek “khamaileon,” meaning “ground lion,” a fitting tribute to their fierce defensive tactics.

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