Rhampholeon spinosus


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Rhampholeon spinosus
Species Authority: (Matschie, 1892)
Common Name(s):
English Usambara Spiny Pygmy Chameleon, Rosette-nosed Pygmy Chameleon, Rosette-nosed Chameleon
Bradypodion spinosum (Matschie, 1892)
Chamaeleon spinosus Matschie, 1892

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered B1ab(iii) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2009-06-30
Assessor(s): Mariaux, J.
Reviewer(s): Böhm, M., Collen, B., Ram, M. & Tolley, K.
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.
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.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species is endemic to Tanzania. It is found in the Usambara Mountains (western and eastern), between an altitude of 800 to 1,400 m above sea level (J. Mariaux pers. comm. 2010). The area in which this species is distributed is approximately 3,243 km².
Tanzania, United Republic of
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: This species is reported to be uncommon by Mease and Dell (2003). In addition, it is reported to be locally uncommon in the Mtai Forest Reserve (Doggart et al. 1999) and Amani Forest Reserve (Tropical Biology Association 2007).
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This arboreal species inhabits montane primary forest and woodland. It is sensitive to habitat loss as it is unable to adapt to deforestation or cultivated landscapes (Spawls et al. 2002).

This species is oviparous with clutch sizes of three to four eggs observed (Spawls et al. 2002).
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: 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). It is unknown whether individuals of this species are harvested from the wild and used for these purposes.

Threats [top]

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 [top]

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.

Citation: Mariaux, J. 2010. Rhampholeon spinosus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <>. Downloaded on 23 October 2014.
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