We saw a fair selection of wildlife on our recent trip to Madagascar, but one of the most beautiful, and certainly the easiest to photograph, was the Furcifer pardalis, or Panther Chameleon, which loped ponderously across the road like a miniature Godzilla. So ponderously, in fact, that I supposed quite a few get run over, which apparently is indeed the case. They also get picked off by snakes and birds, which led me to wonder, if they want to keep up the numbers, how many eggs do they lay?
We had a couple of guides who disagreed about this. Gauthier said just a couple, Ismael said up to forty – which seemed more logical and turns out to be right. According to the Durrell Organisation website, “At the end of the two to three week gestation period, the female lays a clutch of on average 16 to 20, and up to 40, eggs enclosed in a fibrous envelope that can quickly dry out when exposed to the dry air. The Panther chameleon digs its nest in bare ground to a depth of about 10cm. Once the eggs are laid the soil is replaced; the female then tramples the spot and presses the soil around the eggs. Finally, she covers the spot with dry leaves, sticks or grass. The entire process can take a whole day. The eggs take between six and twelve months to hatch and the newborns then clamber to the surface.”
So there you go. It’s quite an exhausting ordeal for Mrs. Godzilla (the orange one in the photos), who has a shorter lifespan than the male. He just strolls around making sure he’s the centre of attention. A reptilian version of Mick Jagger, if you like.