The threatened Knysna Dwarf chameleon is one of the few of the more than 160 chameleon species that gives birth to live young, reports Alberton Record.
These species can give birth to eight to 30 young at a time after a gestation period of four to six months.
Chameleons, which are reptiles of the iguana suborder, range in size from just two centimetres to the size of a domestic cat.
The Knysna Dwarf chameleon (Bradypodion damaranum) is endemic to South Africa and is found in the forests near Knysna on the south-facing slopes of the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma mountains down to the coast in the eastern Western Cape and western Eastern Cape.
In the past, The Knysna Dwarf chameleon was considered to be a subspecies of the Cape Dwarf chameleon (Bradypodion pumilum). This is now known to be wrong, however. Bradypodion damaranum does not appear to have any particularly close living relatives.
Knysna resident Aldo Kleyn told the Mail Online that he has bred and cared for chameleons ever since he witnessed one being crushed by a vehicle more than 12 years ago.
Explaining the video, he said the female chameleon was keen to give birth on his hand, away from hungry males.
“Lots of people have asked why I had her giving birth on my hand and not on a plant. When the females give birth, the males will try to eat some of the young ones. They are quite ferocious.
“To begin with, I put her on another plant and she gave birth to three babies, but she wanted to get back on my hand.”
The baby chameleons can shoot out their tongues, which are twice the length of their bodies, minutes after birth, to feed on tiny insects.
Impact of the devastating Knysna fires
The birth of these chameleons was significant for Kleyn, who lost his home in the devastating fires that raged across Knysna and surrounds in June 2017, as he was unable to rescue many of the chameleons he had bred.
He had set up a successful chameleon-breeding project before the fire and is rebuilding his sanctuary.
As soon as they were old enough, Kleyn released the babies in the Knysna forest.
He started the Facebook page Knysna Dwarf Chameleons to raise awareness of the plight of the chameleons and to share advice and information on how to care for them.
The truth about why chameleons change colour
Chameleons are one of the few animals that can change their skin colour. However, it is a misconception that they change colour to match their surroundings.
Changing their skin colour is an important part of their communication. According to the San Diego Zoo, a chameleon’s skin changes colour in response to emotions such as anger or fear as well as to changes in light, temperature or humidity.
Baby chameleons start changing colour from the age of six or seven months. Then you start to see shots of green and a little bit of orange. They develop their full colour by about a year.