Check your garden waste for chameleons

03 February 2015

An interview on radio station CapeTalk on 29 January 2015 has sparked an interesting debate about the fate of chameleons that end up at garden refuse sites across the city, due to being transported there in the garden waste. 

SANBI’s expert on chameleons, Dr Krystal Tolley, says ideally all gardeners should double-check their garden refuse for wildlife before it is sent to any waste sites around the country.  But, of course, unfortunately some chameleons do end up at these sites.  While it seems preferable for a chameleon that ends up at the waste site to be taken elsewhere to a leafy garden, Dr Tolley says this can be harmful.  She says, “because we do not know where that chameleon originated, re-homing it could spread disease and pathogens or you could be impacting the new population genetically. Other issues with releasing chameleons into new homes relate to increasing the population density in an area which increases competition for food, causing conflict between individual animals."

Chameleons will fight aggressively with each other if there are too many in an area. So while saving one animal from the garden refuse centre might seem to be a good idea for that animal, there is a knock on effect to the native population where it is released. If chameleons are released into an area where there is no current population, that area is probably not suitable for them. Chameleons are native to the Cape Town area, and where chameleons are absent, there is already some issue with the habitat. For example, high density of predators (primarily domestic cats) can wipe out urban populations of chameleons, or the habitat structure may not be good for chameleons. Some gardens may be very leafy, but if the correct plants are not there, chameleons will not be able to make a home for themselves. Garden Waste and Chameleons

Chameleons are internationally protected species, so it is very important to note that it is illegal to sell or buy chameleons without a permit.  It is also illegal to re-home chameleons in the Western Cape without a permit from CapeNature.  


Dr Tolley is working with officials from the City of Cape Town to create awareness about chameleon friendly-gardening practices and investigate the possibility of planting chameleon-friendly plants at the dump sites to create a habitat for the chameleons rescued there. 

Ideally, gardeners all over the  country can help chameleons by turning their gardens into suitable habitats to sustain them.   There are fewer chameleons than there were a few years ago, and this is because they have smaller areas to live in and are killed by cars, cats and pesticides.

 Capetonians can Google “gardening for chameleons in Cape Town” to find gardening tips




Share Share this article


Submitted by Krystal at 26/06/2015 - 13:39
Great! Are there any other trees or bushes in the garden? Or in the neighbours garden(s)? If so, distribute them evenly within a few 100 metres from the original tree. Studies on chameleon movements show that they move this distance naturally, so it should be within their 'home-range'. Get most of them off the tree beforehand, and then check the tree again afterwards. Can you leave lying there a few days? If so, check the tree at night using a strong torch (chameleons easier to see at night).
Submitted by Veronica at 24/06/2015 - 21:38
I need to remove a tree in my garden but it is a haven for chameleons. What can I do to re- home them?
Submitted by Carolyn McDonald at 03/04/2015 - 11:11
Excellent article...Please everyone don't spray poisons or insecticides rather ask around. Someone will know a non lethal solution to your problem !

Add a comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.
Copyright 2018 © SANBI | All Rights Reserved | Terms & Conditions