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Tinytags monitor the world’s largest chameleon’s habitat in Madagascar

The Parson’s chameleon, native to Madagascar, is facing rapid population decline. Tinytag data loggers are monitoring in situ to gather meaningful long-term data about the habitat to aid conservation efforts.

The Association Caméléon Center Conservation (CCC)–a Swiss non-profit association–carries out two conservation projects, in-situ and ex-situ, that contribute to the conservation and scientific knowledge of chameleons. These projects also aim to raise awareness of the vulnerability of these animals and the need to take action for their conservation.

Sébastien Métrailler is the founder and chairman of the CCC. His role is to put in place all the conditions needed to develop inspiring projects: setting priorities, bringing together the right people to carry them out, managing funding, and communicating with partners.

The CCC's large-scale projects in Madagascar to monitor the largest species of chameleon in the world, the Parson's chameleon (Calumma parsonii), began earlier in 2023. Having been previously classified as Non-Threatened (NT) by the IUCN in 2011, rapid population decline has meant that the Parson's chameleon is getting closer to Endangered (EN) classification.

Currently, at the beginning of the programme, Tinytag Plus 2 temperature and humidity data loggers (TGP-4500) are installed in the Vohimana reserve (which is managed by one of the CCC's partners: the NGO L'Homme et l'environnement) in the forest of Madagascar. As the projects progress, the CCC would like to place several more loggers to obtain new information on the ecological environment of the Parson's chameleon. The overall aim is to gain a better understanding of the lives of these animals so that the right conservation action can be taken in situ. It is also planned to use this data ex situ, to guarantee optimal climatic conditions in future conservation breeding programmes to be arranged with European zoos.

The loggers are recording the climatic conditions of the microhabitat of the vulnerable Parson's chameleon. Due to the threat of extinction for the species, it is important to understand their annual life cycle-with seasonal and daily climatic differences-and discover the conditions in which they move and reproduce. No similar study has yet been carried out on a large scale, and the CCC aims to gather data over several years using complementary techniques (climatic measurements, telemetry, and daily observations of movements and behaviour) to collect data in the chameleon's natural habitat.

Without data loggers, it would not be possible to collect vital comprehensive long-term climate data, including tracking the movements of individual chameleons over several years. Gathering data will enable the CCC to: define concrete conservation measures for the habitats of this chameleon in the Vohimana reserve; advance scientific knowledge through research publications; and improve the guidelines for conservation breeding in European zoos. For the CCC, it's also important to be able to involve the local populations in proposing simple measures to help protect the chameleons.

After using Tinytag data loggers in a previous project-a study on the biology of the snake-necked turtle, Acanthochelys macrocephala, in Paraguay-Sébastien chose to work with Tinytags again in this project. Tinytags were favoured "for their robustness, which is very important because they need to be able to remain outdoors for several years in the rainforest, and their ability to record data over a long period without needing to change the batteries."

Photo Credit: Valentin Peguiron

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