PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

South Africa wildlife V: baby Chameleons!

I had a truly magical wildlife experience last week, and I just had to share it with you. Every day, I check the bushes in my garden for Cape Dwarf Chameleons – they’ve been absent for the past year, but made up for it when they finally returned last week, as I got to spend a day with 6 teeny tiny newborn baby chameleons who were each barely an inch long (excluding tail)!

If you’re short on time, here’s a collage of my baby chameleon photos:

baby chameleons

And scroll to the end of this post if you’d like to see my baby chameleon video. But, if you have the time, let me share some bigger photos and more details with you first:

This is the first chameleon I spotted last week – his bright colouring means he’s probably a male (but it’s not easy to tell with dwarf chameleons).

baby chameleons

Even a big brightly coloured guy like this can be very difficult to spot – their best camouflage is to rotate themselves around the branch when you approach so they’re hidden by the branch, like this:

baby chameleons

So you can imagine how much more difficult it’d be to spot tiny babies!

On Tuesday, I saw this bright green chameleon slowly meandering away from a bush in my garden. That was pretty exciting, and I was about to run for my camera when I saw a teeny brown miniature glistening newborn chameleon still in the bush. (In fact, you can see where the babies came from in this photo of the mother – it’s not that black thing under the twig, which is actually part of the bush, but the pale U shape on her body at the very bottom of the photo.)

baby chameleons

Unlike most other chameleons – and reptiles – dwarf chameleons don’t hatch from eggs, but are born live and fully-formed. By the time I got back with my camera, the baby had dried out, and I took a photo with my finger for scale, so you can see how teeny-tiny they really are:

baby chameleons

They’re exceedingly difficult to spot, with their brown bodies clinging flat to the brown twigs:

baby chameleons

As soon as they’re born, they are perfect miniatures of the adults, and able to get around safely through the foliage and catch their own food within minutes – it’s remarkable.

baby chameleons

As I spent more time in the garden, I gradually spotted more and more babies scattered throughout the bush, until I eventually counted a grand total of 6!

baby chameleons

They all had slightly different colourings and markings. They moved around (very slowly, when they thought I wasn’t looking) using their pincer-shaped feet and prehensile tails to cling safely to the branches.

baby chameleons

The babies are a fraction of the size of a leaf on the bush, so I had to check every twig from all angles to spot them all! Do you see the tightly coiled tail on the left in the picture below?

baby chameleons

Here’s a great example of camouflage – can you see both the babies below? (They’re both on the twig running up the middle of the photo, and this is shown much larger than life-size):

baby chameleons

I just love their grumpy faces and pensive expressions…

baby chameleons

…their too-big skin and independently-swivelling eyes…

baby chameleons

I had to peer through between leaves to spot the babies on twigs that were further away…

baby chameleons

…although sometimes they emerged to give me a clearer view:

baby chameleons

I spent most of the day sitting in the flowerbed so I could get down to their eye level and see these miniature marvels. I got to see them focussing both eyes on a tiny insect and then flicking out their sticky tongues to grab it:

baby chameleons

Or just clinging to a twig, motionless except for their swivelling eyes…

baby chameleons

And now for the grand finale: I took a few video clips for you too and made it into a baby chameleon movie, so you can experience them properly (keep watching to the end – it’s worth it!)

For the best experience, play the video at Full 1080p HD quality and fullscreen it.

About the video: I left the sound natural instead of adding music, so you can better experience my garden and enjoy the birdsong. I took these shots at macro range, and I did hold the camera steady, but the babies are so tiny (barely an inch long, excluding tail) that the twigs they are perched on sway in the slightest breeze. I hope you enjoy the video!

(Out of interest: would you like more wildlife videos to accompany my photoblog posts? They’re a bit time-consuming to produce, but my new camera takes excellent video, and I think seeing the animals in motion adds to the experience I can share with you. Do you agree?)


I’m so glad I took the time to spend this day with the baby chameleons – by the next day, I could only see three on the bush, and on the following day I only spotted one – on a different bush! I haven’t seen any of them since, but, between them being so very tiny, masters of camouflage, and easily capable of climbing all over the garden already, I’m not too concerned that anything has happened to them. And of course I’ll keep checking the garden every day, in hopes that I’ll spot some of them again some time….

If I hadn’t already designed a chameleon crochet pattern, this experience would have made me drop everything else to make one! I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing my baby chameleons half as much as I have – it was such a privilege to be able to share the first day of their lives.

15 Comments »

  1. Lesley Innes said

    Oh June! how wonderful – thank you for taking the trouble to photograph and video and share it with us. I haven’t seen a Chameleon in a very long time and certainly not in my garden although I make a point of not using any pesticides.
    Yes please, whenever you have the time and take wildlife photos please share with us. Enjoyed your blog on your trip to Borneo.

  2. Ann Martin said

    June, this was fascinating and such gorgeous photos! Enjoyed the video too. I used to love watching chameleons scurry along a vine-covered wall when I was a child in New Jersey.

  3. fabulous! all those amazing photos! and great video! I’m a little jealous that I don’t get to see them for real but thank you THANK YOU for sharing! this is the next best! 🙂 and these little guys make me want to crochet another PJ chameleon!

  4. Jane said

    loved this, just so exciting, they are fascinating. thank you

  5. Miriam Paschetto said

    These photos are so wonderful! Thank you for sharing them. I have to wait until I get home to watch the video on my husband’s HD monitor, though. And I’m sure he’s going to love it, as well. It’s amazing to be able to sit at my desk eating lunch and at the same time scroll through close ups of tiny baby chameleons from another continent.

  6. Corine Schramke said

    I always love your wildlife posts, and the video was especially fun. Thank you again, for sharing your adventures with us!

  7. debi said

    ooooh I just saw your pic and a very wounderful video. thank you so much for shareing them. I wish I lived somewhere like you. would love to see more pic, oh ya I love you patterns too. have a wounderful day, love debi

  8. Maris said

    So cute!

  9. Walden121 said

    Beyond awesome!

  10. Jeanne S. said

    Thank you so much for sharing with us. They are darling! I haven’t looked at the video yet, but that is my next priority. You are so lucky. Wouldn’t it have been great to have seen them actually being born? Have a great day!

  11. Alicia said

    Love the pictures and video. You are an amazing photographer. And please keep pictures and videos coming. I get to see thing, I would never be able to otherwise.

  12. Ann Connellan said

    June, I love your blog and thank you so much for the effort put into this post. You are a gifted photographer! Thank you so much for sharing your experience with the baby chameleons. Please do more if you have the time.

  13. Margo said

    Great photos and video! If you ever give up designing you could be a professional photographer.

  14. Judy Carlson said

    June, they are so adorable! Thank you so much for taking the time to share them with us!

  15. Martha Ferreira said

    I love your photos of the various wildlife. So interesting to see here in the states. You do an incredible job of getting these close-ups.

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    June Gilbank

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