The first of the minuscule bearded pygmy chameleons, which get their name from the small beard-like lobes underneath their chins, hatched last month after a 70 day incubation period.
Found only in the coastal forests of Tanzania, the tiny reptiles can change colour and produce a line down the side of their body to perfectly blend in with leaves in their surroundings. Chameleon experts say little is otherwise known about the perfectly camouflaged creatures.
The current population of pygmy chameleons is unknown, with no research carried out on their habitat and numbers in the wild.
Little information is known about the differences between small chameleon species, and there is a high likelihood that some types have remained undetected by science and could go extinct without ever being discovered.
The success of three hatchlings at the zoo comes after reptile experts work to reveal more vital information about the animals.
Ben Baker, team manager of reptiles at the zoo said:
“There is currently very little known about bearded pygmy chameleons, especially information about how they live in the isolated forests of Tanzania.
“As a group, however, we do know that chameleons are one of Africa’s most threatened reptiles.”
“Pygmy chameleons can sometimes be found in the wildlife trade and it’s thought their over collection could be one of their biggest threats, along with habitat loss and the changing climate.
“We know the latter is a big problem as their forest home is highly affected by tiny changes in their environment and conditions.”
A spokesman for Chester Zoo said the tiny hatchlings will grow to be just three inches in lengthh and are currently being cared for in the zoo’s special, behind-the-scenes rearing facilities.
The new clutch will play a vital role in establishing a new breeding programme – a carefully managed initiative between many of the world’s most progressive zoos.
This will allow the zoo to create a sustainable population and help gather new information about the species that has previously been unavailable.
According to conservationists, around half of the world’s reptile species have not been officially evaluated in the wild and more information is needed to understand their population sizes, behaviours, habitat requirements and status.
The more information that can be gathered, logged and shared will ultimately lead to a better understanding of species and a chance at protecting their future.
The zoo hopes that the species will help highlight the adaptive camouflage and unique traits of chameleons, as well as their fragile African habitat, and inspire visitors to act for wildlife.