On my first morning in Africa I got lucky by seeing a chameleon moulting. Chameleons shed periodically over a few weeks or months depending on its age. The young chameleon moults more often than the adult. It is also common for chameleons, upon moulting to eat its own skin.
Africa is the home for the majority of the 100-plus species of chameleon. Furthermore, the flap-necked chameleon has one of the most widely distributed ranges of any chameleon species. The flap-necked chameleon inhabits almost all of southern and central Africa. This species can be easily identified by the white scales which begin at the throat and extend to its belly.
Why The Flap?
The flap-necked chameleon’s common name derives from the large, movable flaps that protrude from either side of the upper surface of its neck. Normally these flaps lie flat, but during threat displays to deter rivals or predators, the flap-necked chameleon raises and angles the flaps at 90 degrees to the head.
Like other chameleon species, the flap-necked chameleon has a number of special adaptations for hunting. Its eyes are located on cone-shaped turrets, which can move independently, allowing it to look in two different directions simultaneously, while searching for its insect prey.
International Pet Trade
The flap-necked chameleon is one of the most extensively exported chameleon species. African countries exported almost 50,000 individuals between 1977 and 2001. The U.S.A. pet trade is driving the greatest demand for these chameleons.
Author: Reehana Shihab
Editor: Tim Plowden
Footnote: Tim’s image of the chameleon moulting was a finalist in the Travel Photographer of the Year competition.