Dozens Of Rare Chameleons Smuggled Through Austria In Socks Have Offspring In Vienna Zoo

The 74 protected species of chameleons which were stuffed into socks and ice cream boxes and smuggled in a suitcase from Tanzania to Austria have now delivered offspring after adapting to life at the Vienna Zoo.

The Tiergarten Schonbrunn Zoo in Austria’s capital Vienna welcomed offspring of the 74 rare chameleons which were brought to the zoo after customs discovered them hidden in socks and ice cream boxes while X-raying a man’s luggage in January 2021.

According to the police, the man was initially travelling from Tanzania via the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and intended to sell the lizards on the black market for a value of EUR 37,000 (GBP 32,000).

Credit: Tiergarten Schonbrunn/Newsflash

The man was immediately arrested while the majority of the chameleons that were in good health were brought to the zoo so they could be given appropriate accommodation and a veterinary examination.

According to Director Stephan Hering-Hagenbeck the offspring are clear evidence of how the zoo’s professional care has benefited the protected animals.

He said: “Almost every tenth chameleon has now laid eggs. In the wild, they would all be at risk of habitat degradation and smuggling.”

The director then continued: “The first chameleon to hatch was the Nguru pygmy chameleon which is even threatened with extinction due to its small distribution area.”

Credit: Daniel Zupanc/Newsflash
Nguru pygmy chameleon offspring at the Vienna Zoo in Austria.

Nguru pygmy chameleons (Rhampholeon acuminatus) are incredibly small and grow to only around 5.7 centimetres (2.4 inches) long, however, their offspring measure up to only one centimetre (0.4 inches) when they hatch with their tail adding up to half of their size.

Curator Anton Weissenbacher said the chameleons were a true challenge even for the zoo’s experts.

He added: “These chameleon species have hardly received human care until now. We contacted a few owners and obtained detailed research in order to meet the animals’ requirements.”

Weissenbacher explained how the zoo made a huge effort to set up a separate room for the chameleons and hired a zookeeper to provide special care for them.

As a result a total of 12 young chameleons hatched in the Vienna Zoo in the past two weeks alone.

The zoo authorities hope to fight the extinction of these species by building reserve populations within their facilities.


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Story By: Georgina JadikovskaSub-Editor: James King, Agency:  Newsflash

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