Conservation initiative for Critically Endangered Nguru Spiny Pygmy Chameleon (Rhampoleon acuminatus) in Mkingu Nature Reserve, Tanzania

9 Aug 2023 Mkingu Nature Reserve, Tanzania, Africa Forests | People | Reptiles

Eva Johnson Ayaro

Nguru Spiny Pygmy Chameleon (NSPC) is among the Critically Endangered reptiles in East Africa ( NSPC was first described from the montane forests of South Nguru Mountain (now part of the Mkingu Nature Reserve in Morogoro region, Tanzania (Mariaux& Tilbury 2006).
NSPC is known to have a small range, living only on forest leaf litter or perching on low vegetation between 50cm and 700cm high and endemic within the reserve (Mariaux & Tilbury 2006).

Nguru Spiny Pygmy Chameleon. © by Eva Johnson.

Nguru Spiny Pygmy Chameleon. © by Eva Johnson.

International pet trade is a significant threat to the species’ survival, accounting for 15% of 38 chameleon’s species being exported from Tanzania and recorded by import countries between 1977 and 2001 (Carpenter et al., 2004). In 2014 CITES trade records indicated that few hundred specimens were illegally traded (Anderson, 2014). In addition to illegal trading, NSPC’s habitat is threatened. Although being part of Nature Reserve, wildfires, local surface mining and removal of the forest shrub and herb layer for cultivation of cardamom and yams are persistent within the reserve. These destroy the leaf litter and make the canopy more open, which result into destruction of the microhabitat quality where these minute chameleons reside within (Meng

et al., 2016). Actions to reduce the potential loss of this species have been made, including the Tanzanian government elevating the NSPC reserve status, banning the export of all live animals in 2016, NSPC being added to CITES appendix II ‒ 2017 to curb the trade. However, the species is still illegally smuggled despite being added in CITES ( current population and conservation status of NSPC is not known since there is no any specific survey for NSPC.

This project aims to assess NSPC current collection pressure in the wild, detailed information of NSPC population size, distribution and habitat characteristics, raise awareness on the importance of conserving NSPC and other pygmy chameleons and develop a better strategic conservation and management plan which is crucial in the regulation and protection of the species and its habitat.

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