New Arrivals to Much Ado About Chameleons

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

New year, new arrivals, and new goals for the blog

Last year I changed jobs four times. Four! I went from a lab where I was happy but had no room to grow, to a lab where I was a manager but worked in an utterly socially toxic environment, to an office that had issues of client fraud, to the managerial position I currently hold (where, thankfully, there are so such issues!) Mixed in somewhere among all this, I went to Madagascar for almost two weeks, I started developing an app, and I've been doing consultation work on the side. You could definitely say that 2017 was a year with a lot of change for me, and that unfortunately translated into not a lot of activity for the blog. I sincerely hope that everyone else had a better year!

But thanks to the incredible generosity and enthusiastic support from several friends I have been able to ring in the new year with a beautiful little troop of chameleons so that I can not only keep them again for the joy of chameleons, but also bring renewed energy and new posts to the blog. Below I will introduce each new member of the family as well as extend my deepest gratitude to these friends.

Additionally, as the Executive Editor of Reptile Apartment I am excited to tease you guys with a return of Reptile Livingroom, a podcast and vlog show coming soon! So stay tuned for the launch of new episodes, as I am already working on producing some chameleon content to send to John, the Boss Man.

ChamEO Madagascar Expedition 2017 | Part V

Monday, March 20, 2017

Day 6-7: Exploring Andasibe and Vakona Lodge

By the time we arrived in Andasibe it was utterly dark outside but early enough for a pre-dinner herping walk with our flashlights in hand. Our bus left us on a stretch of road where we met up with our three tour guides for the evening, two men and one woman, who scanned the trees and bushes for chameleons as we walked through the rain. Soaked completely through and sans my camera (I wasn't going to risk getting my equipment wet for mediocre nighttime photos), I walked briskly the length of the road just trying not to step and kill all the little frogs on the asphalt, who were emboldened by the rain and were busy socializing underfoot. 

Dinner and bedtime followed, but the next morning we were able to appreciate the area's natural beauty. Much more misty rainforest than any of the areas we'd seen so far, it truly felt like being in the tropics now. 

ChamEO Madagascar Expedition 2017 | Part IV

Monday, March 13, 2017

Day 5: Leave Ranomafana, Head Towards Andasibe

On this morning we awoke early, despite having arrived back at the hotel room after 1 am, following our rum-and-coke-excursion along the roads of the town looking for herps. But at the crack of dawn we were up again, fed, and loaded ourselves up onto the bus. The following three photos are from the previous afternoon but I'm going to cheat a little! Eager children bathing in the river begged Evan and Melissa for their coke and sweets, and were thrilled to get something sugary as if they weren't hyper enough! Mothers internationally love us.

ChamEO Madagascar Expedition 2017 | Part III

Monday, March 6, 2017

Day 4: Ranomafana National Park and Arboretum

By now I was feeling much better; the fever was essentially gone, all that remained was a cough and some fatigue. Nothing that was going to keep me from participating in as many of the day's activities as possible! This was going to be our first serious hike through jungle so we loaded the bus early in the morning after breakfast and headed up towards the Ranomafana National Park, only a handful of miles from our hotel. 

A quick note here about the coffee in Madagascar... I don't ask for much, I really don't. I think I'm an easy traveler. However, the coffee everywhere in this country was really, honestly, pretty terrible. I certainly don't profess to know why, but after four days of drinking just the minimum amount of dark brown liquid that passed itself as coffee in order to function, I was really craving a good Cuban cafe con leche pick-me-up. So consider yourself, warned; it's not the mosquitoes and diseases that you should be worried about, it's the abysmal coffee. 

Along the road, a major highway (believe it or not), we saw drives of zebu cattle making their way in from the coast. It's a 40-day walk, and the herders make the entire journey on foot beside their animals. We didn't have a single steak or piece of beef all trip that wasn't zebu meat, and clearly it's the livestock of choice across the country. 

ChamEO Madagascar Expedition 2017 | Part II

Monday, February 27, 2017

Day 3: Leave Antsirabe, Hike Ialatsara, and Arrive in Ranomafana

Welcome to the second installment of the Madagascar trip! On this day, day 3, I awoke after a horrible night with a fever of 102°F (yay!) In true mother-of-two-girls form, not two minutes after texting Elisa that I had a fever she and her daughter April showed up at my room armed with a thermometer and bags of medicine under each arm. Properly loaded up on Tylenol and a yummy breakfast we set off again. 

The food in Madagascar was honestly pretty good, but the breakfasts were particularly nice. In true French fashion, the spread every morning included coffee, teas, fresh fruit juices, fruit, bread, butter, fresh marmalade, and eggs in whatever fashion you wanted. Definitely a nice way to set off for the day!

We we sad to leave this hotel, I think. It just really was such a beautiful little place; an oasis in an otherwise unattractive, bustling little city. But on our way out April spotted a baby Oustalet's chameleon (F. oustaleti) from the night before a second time. 

ChamEO Madagascar Expedition 2017 | Part I

Monday, February 20, 2017
After several attempts at starting the Madagascar trip recount, I think I will begin just by extending my enormous gratitude to Elisa Hinkle of Chameleon Education and Outreach (ChamEO) for putting together this expedition for the ten of us. It could not have been easy to coordinate so many aspects of the trip and so many people from various cities, but the final result was a nearly flawless excursion through Madagascar. I say nearly flawless because there were certainly unexpected hiccups; such as losing Ryan only a few minutes after entering the country to the Malagasy customs agents, who had swooped him away for questioning in French! Or the fever of 102° that started with me on only our second night and spread to everyone else throughout the remainder of the trip. But despite the little unforeseeables, losing about 10 lbs, and getting tagged by leeches, the trip was a resounding success for me.

I will be dividing up the photographs into blog parts, as I came back with over 900 photos and 30 videos and cannot possibly post them all!

Male or Female? How to Sex a Veiled/Yemen Chameleon

Tuesday, February 7, 2017
This week I am elbow-deep in the Malagasy tropics, hopefully stopping now and then for a cold beer. So this week's blog post comes courtesy of Trevor Neufeld from Niagara Herpetoculture in Ontario, Canada. He has been breeding veiled/Yemen chameleons (C. calyptratus) for about 20 years, and specializes in producing amazing individuals, especially of the translucent variety.

His photos will illustrate how to sex veiled chameleons easily, even as babies. This will apply in over 90% of all cases; there is always the odd chameleon that is a female with large spurs or a male with little ones, but by and large this method is a great way to identify a chameleon as male or female before any of the adult coloration comes in.

As adults identification should be easy; the male sports an impressive casque, has bright vertical bands of color, and has the thick tail-base typical of male chameleons where they hide their hemipenes. Females should be overall smaller, with smaller casques, typically solid green with speckles of color instead of bands, and a narrow tail base. In addition to this, males will have what are known as spurs on the back of their hind feet; a little protuberance like the spur on a cowboy's heel. Something (most) females do not have. The spur is present at the moment of hatchling, so even a newly-minted baby chameleon should be sexable this way with good certainty.
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