Creeping into the hearts of many

YOLANDE DU PREEZ

Slowly, one step at a time, pause, look to the left, look to the right, look up, look down, proceed and repeat. This is how the Cape Dwarf chameleon crawled into the hearts, and gardens of Hout Bay residents.

Lauren Maas, who lives near the World of Birds in Hout Bay, posted photos of a few chameleons in her garden on community Facebook page, Hout Bay Organised. And 168 likes and 49 comments later, it became apparent that the lesser spotted chameleon was indeed a well admired creature among Hout Bay residents.

Residents responded by posting pictures of chameleon sighting in their gardens around Hout Bay while others were in total awe of the creatures in Ms Maas’s garden.

Ms Maas said she has currently up to six chameleons living in her garden.

“I spotted the first one about eight months ago and since then more have made their appearance,” she said.

She says they live in different parts of the garden and come and go as they please. It seems like they like the vegetable garden, especially the rosemary and mint plants, and she often sees them strolling about the shrubs when she picks rose- mary.

Her daughter, Hannah, 8, named one of them Cammy. She calls the others, who are yet to be named, “my babies”.

“It is just such a pleasure to have these chameleons in my garden. They have a special spot that they like so I know where they are,” she said.

However, Tony Rebelo from the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), said chameleons are common in Cape Town gardens and frequently seen.

His son, Alex Rebelo from the University of Stellenbosch, completed his BSc Honours at UCT in 2014 on the habitat-use and movement of the Cape Dwarf Chameleon Bradypodion pumilum. He says Cape Dwarf Chameleons commonly occur in lowland wetlands and forested streams as well as in gardens and some crop- land.

He explains that chameleons take a few years to mature and are endemic to the Western Cape, but only occur in the South-Western part.

The Cape Dwarf Chameleon is a protected species meaning they cannot be kept in a cage or as a pet or be transported from one area to another.

“They are considered threatened, in the category of vulnerable, so they do not face extinction as a number of populations are within protected areas and they do survive within some gardens, but this could change in the future,” he said.

He added that residents can create a happy chameleon garden by avoiding insecticides and by planting indigenous bushes that link to other plants and even other gardens.

“Populations need quite a few indi- viduals to persist, so chameleons in an isolated garden with bare walls won’t last long. Electric fences kill lots of chameleons, avoid them or keep vegetation away from them,” he said.

Chameleon sighting can be record- ed on iSpot at www.ispotnature.org/ species-dictionaries/sanbi/Bradypo dion%20pumilum