WILD CHAMELEONS ON THE SLOPES OF MT. KILIMANJARO

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Tanzania, the largest country in East Africa, is a well known wildlife destination with some of the finest national parks in the world.It’s home of more than 300 species of mammals, with large populations of zebras, elephants, wildebeests, buffaloes, hippos, giraffes, antelopes, dik-diks, gazelles, elands and kudus.Their main predators,  lions, cheetahs, leopards and wild dogs are found in good numbers as well.

Tanzania also hosts over 1000 species of birds, which include many species of vultures, eagles, kingfishers, bee-eaters, hornbills, widow birds and pipits and some specialities like Yellow-collared Lovebird, Pemba Scops Owl, Udzungwa Forest Partridge, Pemba Green Pigeon, Usambara Akalat, Iringa Akalat,  Usambara Weaver, Usambara Eagle Owl, Usambara Hyliota, Banded,Moreau and Rufous-winged Sunbird, Gabon Nightjar, Lilac-breasted Roller, Ground Hornbill, Red-throated Tit, Sooty Chat, African Finfoot, Livingstone’s and Ross’s Turaco, Giant Kingfisher, Blue Flycatcher, Double-toothed Barbet, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Lesser Flamingo and Greater Flamingo among others.

Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Kilimanjaro are the most famous national parks in here, although there are also other excellent parks like Gombe, Tarangire, Arusha, Ruaha and Selous Grand Reserve. Gombe NP contains an important population of wild chimpanzees that has been widely studied by the famous primatologist Jane Goodall since the early 60’s. Selous and Ruaha Grand Reserve harbour some remarkable populations of wild dogs and Tarangire is home of a large population of African Elephants.

What is lesser known is that Tanzania is home of about 100 species of chameleons, being the second  country in the world with the largest number of chameleon species.

I arrived at Kilimanjaro International Airport after a 2 hours flight from Kigali.The airport is located at about 30 km from Moshi, a little and peaceful town that lies on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.The town has superb views of that mountain, see picture below. There are plenty of varied and affordable accommodation to choose here.

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I heard that this area and the Arusha region were quite prolific in chameleons.Once there, i contacted with some locals to bring me to the nearbies of the town to find some chameleons in the wild.I agreed to pay about 15 euros and we started to walk early afternoon.

While walking, other people joined us eager to help me or maybe to get a tip.After half an hour walking across the town, we passed through an impoverished area with many huts.People were quite surprised to see a tourist here and they greeted me with awe.Finally we arrived to a secondary forest with some sort of ivies and many bushes.We followed a trail for quite a while, while checking among the branches to spot one of these amazing creatures.Our research was becoming fruitless and i started to desperate.

After an hour, one of our group finally spotted a chameleon !!!! It was a beautiful green specimen with dark green bands and spots spread in its tiny body.They grabbed the chamaleon and put it on a branch to observe him better.The chameleon changed its colour rapidly.I was very excited to see this animal in the wild, as you can see on the picture on top of the post.

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Chameleons are a type of lizard found mainly in Africa, especially in the island of Madagascar.They are known by their striking colours, their ability to change their colour, their long, sticky and fast firing tongue and their eyes,that are able to move independently of each other.

Unlike what most people think, the chameleons don’t change their colour for camouflage.Scientific studies suggest that light,temperature and mood trigger their change of coloration.They also use it to mate and communicate with other chameleons.Their eyes can rotate and focus two different objects at the same time giving them a 360 degrees view around its body.

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Their toes are modified into groups of 2 or 3 giving their foot a clamp appearance that are perfectly adapted to grab branches of bushes and trees, see picture below.

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We left our colourful friend on a branch and came back to the town.

Another awesome creature seen in this amazing journey !!!

Next stop, Tarangire NP, with many pictures of birds and other wild animals !!!

See you soon my friends !!

GHARIAL, AN ENDANGERED CROCODILE

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Gharials  (Ghaviali Gangeticus) are large-sized reptiles that are found in Northern India and Nepal.It’s one of the longest ( including the sea-water crocodile ) crocodilians, measuring up to 6 m long and weighting up to 680 kg.This reptile is a threatened species,with an estimated population of only 1200 individuals in Northern India and 100 in Nepal.They  don’t have natural predators due to its size, except human beings, which hunt them for their valuable skin.They also face threats due to pollution of the water,destruction or intense human pressure on their habitat.Their eggs are stolen for consumption while many young individuals die every year by getting trapped in fishermen’s nets.

Fish is the main diet of Gharials, along with insects and other small animals.The snout of the gharial is very unmistakable, being the thinnest and most elongated among all crocodilians.Males sport a large bulb on the tip of their snout,called the ghara.The gharials are usually found in calm areas of deep and fast-flowing rivers and sandy banks.They remain most of the time into the water, being the most aquatic of all the crocodilians, never moving far from water.They can share their habitat with mugger and seawater crocodiles.

In Nepal there are small populations in Chitwan and Bardia National Park.I took the picture on the top of the post in Chitwan National Park.You can appreciate the elongated snout, very well adapted for its fish diet.