This was the first time I saw the Chamaeleo zeylanicus (Indian Chameleon) in the wild. I had earlier seen these reptiles in zoos. Never thought that these creatures could be so beautiful. This was an amazing sight and encounter. A couple of friends and me were returning to coimbatore from Bandipur National Park after nearly a week of stay. We had sighted the normal Elephants, Gaur, Deer etc at Bandipur. But the trip, to my friends, was not eventful. As usual they had hoped to sight the big cats but no such luck. As we were discussing the merits of the National Park, a car which was going in front of us screeched to a halt. We were on the ghats of Ooty to Coimbatore and were on the bend of a blind curve. There was a photographer in the earlier car who got out. This signalled to us that he had sighted something unique and we also stopped close by. Only when I got out I realized that he was photographing an Indian Chameleon. Sighting any wild animal anywhere is a pleasure for an enthusiast. Imagine my fright when an oncoming truck just sped over the poor reptile. Utilizing the other car’s travellers and my friend we blocked the road for a few minutes and waited for the reptile to cross over to the side. The Indian Chameleon did cross over in a few minutes but did seem like an eternity to me. All during the crossing I was urged by my friends to pick up the reptile and put it in a safe point. But why handle it when time could serve the same purpose. Though this is not a rescue by any means, it is pleasant to know that we played a small part in its safety that day. Hats off to the other car passengers and the photographer who were more concerned about the reptile’s safety than some excellent close up shots.
Chamaleo Zeylanicus – Indian Chameleon is found here, Srilanka and other parts of Asia. The reptile’s feet are split into two claspers (to clasp). A long tongue, independent eye movement and the ability to change colour characterizes this animal. Found in shades of green and brown with dark bands. The reptiles change colour very fast and the colour change is used to absorb heat. Typically arboreal animals, it was stunning to see the reptile crossing road. Eyes are large, covered by a thick lid with a small central opening for the pupil. No external ears. Head and body covered with granules or tubercles. A prehensile tail and a short neck. They have ability to rotate their individual eyes accordingly while catching prey. Their prehensile tail acts as a extra leg/hand to support their body by grasping objects. Prey consists of termites, grasshoppers and other insects on trees. The reptile is a docile one.