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Calumma parsonii conservation

A global approach to the conservation of the world's largest chameleon

A programme comprising two projects, in situ and ex situ, with complementary objectives in line with modern, global approaches to conservation.

Calumma parsonii: Projets

Programme summary

Parson's chameleon (Calumma parsonii) is the world's largest chameleon species, with a total length of up to 70 cm. In 2011, it was classified by the IUCN as Near Threatened (NT), but the rapid decline in its population means that this chameleon is close to being classified as an endangered species.

Loss of rainforest, mainly through conversion of agriculture by cutting and burning, but also through logging, is a threat to this species. Much of the habitat of this species is extremely fragmented, and small fragments of forest are unlikely to be viable to ensure the survival of this large species with its low population density (Jenkins, et al., 2011).

This emblematic species is endemic to the primary rainforest areas of the north and east coasts of Madagascar. It is currently represented by two subspecies: Calumma parsonii parsonii (Cuvier, 1824) which frequents the mountain forests of eastern Madagascar and Calumma parsonii cristifer (Methuen & Hewitt, 1913) which is found in the tropical rainforest around Analamazaotra and Mantadia.

In this species, sexual maturity is reached at between 2 and 5 years of age, although it appears to be earlier in the C. p. cristifer subspecies. Females lay between 38 and 63 eggs after a gestation period of 3 to 5 months. Incubation lasts between 14 and 24 months. The average lifespan of this species is fairly long for a chameleon, between 10 and 12 years in the wild and up to 14 years in captivity (Jenkins, et al., 2011).

This programme consists of two projects (in situ and ex situ) with complementary objectives in line with modern, global approaches to conservation. The Parson's chameleon is an emblematic species among Madagascar's reptiles, and despite the risk of extinction hanging over its natural populations, no similar study on this species has yet been carried out on such a large scale.

Calumma parsonii: Notre ferme

1. In situ project

The in situ activities will provide in-depth knowledge of the ecology of the Parson's chameleon, information that is crucial for conservation, and the effective application of this knowledge in the Vohimana reserve with the involvement of the local population. The essential involvement of the Madagascan guides in the reserve will ensure that the results are put into practice in their reserve.

Calumma parsonii: Notre ferme
calumma parsonii Vohimana
Calumma parsonii conservation
Project conservation chameleon Madagascar
Calumma parsonii in situ
Calumma parsonii: Texte
Calumma parsonii: Notre ferme

First stage in the field

September 2023 : The first stage in setting up our in-situ monitoring protocol for Calumma parsonii was completed with the installation of data loggers in the Vohimana reserve. These devices were placed in trees occupied by chameleons. They will record temperature and humidity data every hour for at least 12 months.

Photos: Valentin Peguiron

Climate recording project Calumma parsonii

First radiotelemetry tests

February 2024 : We are delighted to announce our partnership with Chester Zoo as part of our conservation project for Parson's Chameleon, the largest chameleon in the world. The zoo has agreed to collaborate by testing a new transmitter system on their captive animals, approved by their ethics committee to ensure the welfare of the chameleons.

Once the system has been validated, it will be deployed in Madagascar to track the movements of Parson's chameleons by telemetry, providing crucial information for their preservation. 

Popularising science paves the way for dynamic participatory science, strengthening our conservation efforts. Our project manager, Martin ETAVE, shares the advances he has made as a result of his Master's degree in audiovisual, journalism and scientific communication at the Université Paris Cité. Read his article, "The Parsonii Project: A Study to Turn Around a Species in Trouble!"

Calumma parsonii: Notre ferme

2023 - 2026

43 000 CHF

ID 6.1

Calumma parsonii: Infographics
Calumma parsonii: Notre ferme

2. Ex situ project

The ex situ work will enable the creation of a sustainable captive population in European zoological structures, participating in educational and research programmes to raise awareness and generate essential knowledge for future conservation.

Calumma parsonii ex situ
Enclos intérieur conservation ex situ
Calumma p. parsonii OE ex situ
parsonii ex situ exterieur
Calumma parsonii: Texte

2023 - 2025

39 000 CHF

ID 6.2

Calumma parsonii: Infographics
Calumma parsonii: Texte
  • Brady, L.D., Griffiths, R.A. 1999. Status Assessment of Chameleons in Madagascar. IUCN Species Survival Commission. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

  • Craig D. 2022. A successful model for breeding parson’s chameleons. Responsible Herpetoculture Journal 3: 15-24.

  • Jenkins, R.K.B., Andreone, F., Andriamazava, A., Anjeriniaina, M., Brady, L., Glaw, F., Griffiths, R.A., Rabibisoa, N., Rakotomalala, D., Randrianantoandro, J.C., Randrianiriana, J., Randrianizahana , H., Ratsoavina, F. & Robsomanitrandrasana, E. 2011. Calumma parsonii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2011: e.T172896A6937628. Accessed on 25 February 2023.

  • Marushchak O., Ivanuna E., Ivanuna A., Kryvosheyeva L., Prokopiev S., Cornu F., Kiselev A., Durbin C., Sako N. Calumma parsonii (Cuvier, 1824) or Parson’s chameleon: keeping and reproducing at BION Terrarium Center.

  • Necas, P., 2022. The Greatest paradox of Parsons’ Chameleon (Calumma parsonii) the king of the Malagasy jungle, the flagship species, understudied, and close to extinction. Responsible Herpetoculture Journal 3: 27-33

Partners and donors

parc zoologique paris mnhn logo
Homme et Environnement
Chester zoo
HerpetoTechnique logo
Le Pal Nature
Reserve Africaine Sigean
Calumma parsonii: Clients
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