Chamaeleo africanus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Reptilia Squamata Chamaeleonidae

Scientific Name: Chamaeleo africanus Laurenti, 1768
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Basilisk Chameleon, African Chameleon
Taxonomic Notes: Chamaeleo calcaricarens has variously been treated as a full species or as a subspecies of C. africanus. Largen and Spawls (2006) examined records attributed to both species, and found that the only available diagnostic character is unreliable, and restricted to males. These authors synonymized C. calcaricarens with C. africanus, and while acknowledging that C. africanus so defined may represent a species complex, argued that treating C. calcaricarens as a valid species on the basis of existing diagnostic characters would make it difficult or impossible to attribute many Ethiopian records to either form with certainty. C. calcaricarens was nonetheless accepted as a valid species without comment by Tilbury and Tolley (2009); Tilbury (2010) indicated that hemipenal morphology reliably diagnosed the two species, and formally resurrected that species. Tilbury (2010) did not consider C. africanus as ranging into the Horn of Africa, but the basis for this is unclear. This action is supported by evidence from a recent molecular phylogeny of the Chamaeleonidae that C. africanus from Niger and C. calcaricarens from Borama in Somalia are distinct at the species level (Tolley et al. 2013). Trape et al. (2012) apparently overlooked the resurrection of C. calcaricarens in describing C. africanus as ranging east as far as Somalia.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2014
Date Assessed: 2014-08-14
Assessor(s): Wilms, T., Wagner, P., Chirio, L., Böhme, W., Lymberakis, P. & Baha El Din, S.
Reviewer(s): Tolley, K.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Bowles, P.
Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, and because any declines are likely to be localized.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species has been recorded from Egypt (where it is restricted to the Nile delta and lower Nile valley), Sudan, and eastwards to Mauritania (Trape et al. 2012). Following Largen (1997), C. africanus does not occur in Djibouti or Somalia, and records from these countries are consequently understood to refer to C. calcaricarens. Tilbury (2010) considers the species also to be absent from Ethiopia and Eritrea, and all Ethiopian specimens examined appear to represent C. calcaricarens (C. Tilbury unpubl. data). This concept is followed here, however Largen and Spawls (2006) caution that possible confusion between the two species makes range limits difficult to establish. Genetic samples are so far available only for the eastern range limit of C. calcaricarens in Somalia, and close to the western range limit of C. africanus in Niger (Tolley et al. 2013). It is therefore unknown where the contact zone between the two species lies, although as presently understood C. calcaricarens is believed to be endemic to the Horn of Africa (Tilbury 2010). Records in West and Central Africa exist for Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, the Central African Republic and Gabon. In Europe it is restricted to a tiny part of the southwestern Peloponnese in southern Greece, where it is believed to be an introduction from antiquity, possibly from Egypt.
Countries occurrence:
Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Egypt; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Gabon; Mali; Mauritania; Niger; Nigeria; Sudan
Additional data:
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Where this species occurs it appears to be locally very common (Tilbury 2010). In Greece, the single population fluctuates, with estimates of between 150 and 600 individuals over the last decade (Dimaki 2008). It is relatively common in the northern Nile delta, Egypt (Flower 1933, S. Baha El Din pers. comm.). There is no quantitative information on abundance or population trends, but the population is suspected to be stable.
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:In the Mediterranean, this species has been recorded from salt marshes, sand dunes and maquis shrubland. In the major part of its African range this species is found around oases in the Sahara, and in the dry savannah of the Sahel, habitually in Acacia trees (Trape et al. 2012). Animals are found climbing in vegetation such as reeds and shrubs, or climbing in large trees. It is sometimes found on the ground in sandy areas, and in the dry season is often seen on paths and roads (Trape et al. 2012). An introduced population in Greece has adapted to coastal dune vegetation (Tilbury 2010). Like other chameleons, this is a diurnal species that feeds on insects and other arthropods (Trape et al. 2012). It has been recorded from traditionally cultivated agricultural land and rural gardens. In Greece, eggs are laid between mid-September and October and hatch in the following August/September, an incubation period of 10-11 months (Tilbury 2010), and the females produce a single clutch of between 4 and 43 eggs per year.

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: There have been approximately 10,000 individuals of Chamaeleo africanus exported for the pet trade between 1975-2013, the majority of which originated in Niger (UNEP-WCMC 2014). Given the lengthy time period and this species' large distribution, these levels of export are most likely not detrimental to this species.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species is not considered to be subject to major threats at a global level due to its wide distribution, local abundance and occurrence in a range of both natural and modified environments. In Greece, the main threats to the species are loss of sand dune breeding habitat to developing tourism, and illegal collection (as pets). Mortality on roads is also an important threat to the Greek subpopulation, especially during the breeding season. It is probably threatened by the reclamation of wetlands in the northern Nile delta (S. Baha El Din pers. comm.).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: No conservation measures are thought to be required throughout most of this species' range, and given its large distribution it undoubtedly occurs in a number of protected areas. In Greece and Egypt, where localized threats to the species exist, it is present in the Yalova Pilos (Greece) and Burullus (Egypt) protected areas. In Egypt, there may be a need for development and implementation of national legislation to protect this species. Following the formal resurrection of C. calcaricarens, the limits of this species' distribution are in need of clarification.

Citation: Wilms, T., Wagner, P., Chirio, L., Böhme, W., Lymberakis, P. & Baha El Din, S. 2014. Chamaeleo africanus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T157273A747133. . Downloaded on 15 October 2018.
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