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EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 31 December, 2002, 11:52 GMT
Colourful end to chameleons' journey
Horned Chameleon
A rare Horned Chameleon was being smuggled
A large consignment of wild chameleons is being cared for at a zoo in Cornwall after a smuggling attempt was foiled.

The 39 animals are settling into their new home at Newquay Zoo after being seized by customs officers at Heathrow Airport.

They are thought to have been taken from the wild in Africa to be sold on as part of the Christmas pet trade.

But now they are to take part in the zoo's breeding programme to help protect and preserve rare species.

Green chameleon
Some of the female chameleons are pregnant

Forty-two animals arrived at the zoo a week ago after undergoing a six-month period of quarantine at Heathrow.

Three died and many suffered from dehydration before they were seized, making it difficult for them to change colour, their famous characteristic.

Zoo curator Wendy Winstanley said they are tricky to look after and cannot bear change, but there was no choice when they came.

Ms Winstanley said: "We didn't lose as many as we thought we would. They don't like movement or travel.

"When they get hassled they hiss and sway, which takes a lot out of them."

But now things are looking up for the little creatures.

Breeding programme

Zookeeper Ian Clayton said: "We just make sure they've plenty of water and food available and they have started to fill out. They look much more alert and much more colourful."

The zoo is building a special area to keep and exhibit them.

But the zoo also has a chance to start up a breeding programme. Many of the chameleons are rare, such as a Horned Chameleon which was part of the hoard.

Ms Winstanley said: "When they are bred in captivity they are more hardy. We'll then be able to swap them with zoos.

"We'll have done quite a bit of good for the preservation of the species."

A number of the females are already pregnant.


Click here to go to BBC Cornwall

Click here to go to BBC London Online
See also:

10 Jul 02 | England
17 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
29 Apr 02 | Science/Nature
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