Seeing as today is the first day of Hawaii Invasive Species Awareness Week, I thought it was time to write a post on the beautiful but invasive (and illegal) veiled chameleon, Chamaeleo calyptratus. Most likely introduced to the islands through the pet trade, the male lizard can get as large as two feet. It's a habitat generalist, at home in dry low elevation areas as well as upland wet forests. And when it comes to dinner, these arboreal lizards aren't fussy either: plants, flowers, insects, small mammals and even birds will do. Putting these generalist qualities all together, you can imagine the destruction they could do to native bird and insect populations. Oh, and they can have babies - lots of babies. Unlike the Jackson's chameleon which gives birth live, these females lay eggs. After digging a hole in the ground she lays down thirty to ninety-five eggs per clutch, with up to three clutches per year. Half a year later, the baby chameleons hatch, and begin what can be an eight-year life span in the wild. It seems that the veiled chameleons are isolated to just a few spots in Maui, but the public is urged to contact officials if one is observed. Non-breeding females and juvies are mostly green with some white markings; larger adults can display vertical stripes, and a crayon-box of colors are possible depending on social and environmental factors. A fringe lines the belly from snout to tail. Like other chameleons, their eyes can move independently, and their crazy long tongues can be rapidly projected to ambush an unwary meal. Their prehensile tail helps them hang tight in the trees, and their flattened bodies can do a pretty good leaf imitation when they sway. But despite their intriguing features, best to recognize that these creatures pose a veiled threat to Hawaii's native treasures.
welcomes you to visit with the all the wonderful flora and fauna that we share this lovely aina with.