Chameleon Relocation Pilot Project


The first phase research project was successful ie the chameleon population that was rescued survived the relocation and the numbers remained stable for a year. There was evidence of breeding as there were many babies found at each monitoring event. To date we have rescued 334 chameleons. We have surveyed 35 open areas and have captured this on a map for use by CapeNature and the Overstrand Municipality. We now work closely with CapeNature, using their standard data capture methods and forms. The team leader has been co-opted onto a search and rescue team for the Overstrand Municipality Fire department for collaborative work before prescribed burns. I facilitate a main citizen science group to do the search and rescue work (with strict permit conditions) and have created a secondary group under leadership of another to do the surveys (which does not require a permit). As most of this activity occurs at night we work with the Law Enforcement Directorate and the numerous neighbourhood watch groups to assist with field activities. We have also identified five potential relocation sites – one of which is on the Whale Coast Conservation property. We have started planting fynbos plants from rescue sites to create a chameleon sanctuary.


When a local enthusiast Daphne Bayer told Whale Coast Conservation staff that there were many chameleons in Overstrand urban areas we seized the opportunity to go chameleon spotting with Daphne. The first area we visited was a chameleon paradise. About 70 chameleons were spotted. But 2 days later the bulldozers moved in to prepare the spot for development.

This is how the Chameleon Relocation Pilot Project was born.

WCC’s Sheraine van Wyk proposed that the remaining chameleons in the area be relocated to a safer environment and that the survival success of the animals be monitored over an extended period to determine whether relocation is a viable option for these animals. A research permit was secured from CapeNature. A potential safe habitat was identified where the animals could be released. There had to be suitable vegetation and no resident chameleons. Since they are territorial, releasing chameleons into an area that’s already occupied would stress both the resident and the released animals. Groups of volunteers joined Whale Coast Conservation over 4 evenings at the end of February to find at-risk chameleons.

When a chameleon was spotted, a handler carefully cut the vegetation on which the animal was sitting and placed it in a container of vegetation to be carried to the recording station. There each animal was photographed and its details recorded. It was then boxed up for transportation to the release site. As every chameleon is unique in its colour pattern and dorsal ridge, it is possible to use photo-ID to identify that animal again in subsequent monitoring.

Each chameleon costs WCC R2 010 to relocate and to monitor its survival success. Please help us to help them.