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.

How to Avoid (or Treat) Parasites in Chameleons

Wednesday, January 25, 2017
If you saw last week’s blog post you might be a slightly horrified right now. A little like when we watch Monsters Inside Me and vow to never eat anything even remotely containing pork in a sketchy south-east Asian rural food stand. Easy enough; don’t order Yam naem sot while driving through the backwoods of Thailand. The bad news, however, is that it’s not as straight-forward to avoid parasitic infections in our herps. How do we keep the same thing that happened to Fox the panther chameleon from happening to other reptiles in our homes?

Parasites are everywhere, unfortunately. If you’ve spent any time on reptile groups or forums then inevitably you’ve heard that feeding wild-caught bugs (like grasshoppers, crickets, mantids, etc. from outside) carry a high risk of infecting your pet with parasites. This is true. However, this does not, contrary to popular misconception, mean that if your pets only eat captive farmed insects like crickets and superworms, that they will never catch any parasites. A biologist I knew, Pete Bandre (owner of Incredible Pets in Melbourne, Florida for a good two decades), told me once about an informal study he did once. He wanted to see if any cricket suppliers had “cleaner” crickets than others, so he ordered a bulk box from all the top suppliers in the US. He had each supplier’s stock sampled and they all came back positive for things like pinwom and even coccidia. Yikes!

Ok, so if even our innocent pet store crickets are riddled with the potential for parasites, the only things we can do are mitigate risk, do preventive testing and treatment, and treat parasite loads as necessary. 


The Curious Case of a Chameleon Full of Worms

Sunday, January 15, 2017
Caution: This post contains graphic necropsy photos.

Unfortunately, this week’s post is not a happy one but it’s a necessary one, nonetheless. I’ve never talked very much about parasites beyond just recommending routine fecal tests but I’m going to dedicate this post to talking about what it looks like when parasites take over and end up killing their host. Next week I’ll follow up and talk more about common parasites, how to manage them, and how to (hopefully) avoid this situation.

Not quite a month ago, on Tuesday, December 13th, I received a new little panther chameleon. To the best of anyone’s knowledge he was a captive-born from the previous July (making him 6-months-old), and in great shape. We had a very pleasant buying and shipping experience and I had no complaints about Fox, the Ambilobe panther chameleon. In the few weeks that followed he did very well; he would eat and drink normally and nothing in his behavior seemed out of order. He started warming up to his new home and you could start to see his little personality shining through. On a couple occasions I was able to take him outside for some Miami sunshine.


[Review] Rain Forest Habitats' Pro PVC Cages

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Meet Mojito. Not the elixir of the gods minty beverage that helps me recover from a long workweek with girlfriends on balmy evenings in Miami, but Mojito my young Cuban knight anole (Anolis equestris.) Anyone that lives in South Florida will recognize this species as the largest of the anole species, which, a courtesy of Cuba as the name implies has made its home comfortably here in the neighborhoods and keys of the subtropical southernmost tip of the continental United States.

In lieu of catching one off the street (as my biologist friends would prefer it) I purchased Mojito as a captive born baby at the last Repticon Miami expo at just a few weeks of age, and since he was so tiny I simply housed him in a spare Exo Terra terrarium measuring 12” x 12” x 18”. After almost two months, however, Mojito was beginning to outgrow the little glass terrarium and I started to look for something more suitable for the next several months of his life.

When I discovered the RainForest Habitat enclosures by Sean I thought I had come across exactly what I needed; a company that hand-made screen, enclosed, and hybrid cages in all sorts of styles and sizes, and in three colors; black, light gray, and white. Fabricated out of PVC, the cages offer light-weight enclosures that make great alternative to glass terrariums. For someone like me that likes things in a group to match, they presented the ability to have a series of cages that all had the same uniform look but suited each species specifically. In Mojito’s case I purchased a hybrid cage – a white PVC cage with three closed sides and a screen door and top. It would be perfect for keeping in humidity and heat but with the screen door would still allow for plenty of air movement, so that the cage does not get too warm as my room temperatures here in Miami fluctuate throughout the day. 

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