Meller's Chameleons at the ZooNEW Exhibit
October 9, 2015
We are excited about our new Meller’s chameleon exhibit that opened in Africa-Okavango Delta. Meller’s are the largest African chameleon located in Tanzania, northern Mozambique and Malawi. They can grow to reach 24 inches long and weigh up to 21 ounces. They have extremely long tongues which allows them to quickly grab their prey from a distance of up to 20 inches. Strictly carnivores, they will eat anything from insects to small lizards, spiders, worms and even birds.
Their typical color ranges from brown, green, yellow to black and white. Chameleon colors and patterns change with temperature, mood and are used to communicate with each other. Females will have a specific color or pattern to say ‘yes’ to an advancing male and another distinctive pattern or color to say ‘no’. They also feature a single horn on the end of their snout, with some referring to them as “greater one-horned chameleons”. Meller’s chameleons have stout-bodies and prehensile tails which help them climb and balance in the trees.
This exhibit features large leaf evergreen plants including dracaena and a variety of ficus. The large leafed plants were chosen for their climb-ability and functionality. In this exhibit, the misting system drips water into the exhibit and it is caught on the leaves of the trees. Since chameleons rarely drink from standing water, they will drink from the water droplets on the leaves.
The chameleons here at the Zoo have been trained to eat their lunch (crickets) from a green bucket. This keeps the crickets to one central spot and keeps them from scattering all over the exhibit.
The Virginia Zoo has been successful in breeding the Meller’s chameleon and are excited that they are now included in our Africa boardwalk. You find them along the African boardwalk next to the Hyrex, Meerkat and Monitor lizard, opposite of the Fennec Fox.