The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa

Common Flap-neck Chameleon

Afrikaans name: Verkleurmannetjie

Common Flap-neck Chameleon

Common Flap-neck Chameleon

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Chamaeleo dilepis

The Common Flap-neck Chameleon is a large chameleon that can reach a length of 35 cm including the tail. They vary in colour from yellowish-green to bright green and have patches of white along their sides. Sometimes they may be brown in colour.

If this chameleon is stressed or agitated it has the ability to puff up their body which exposes orange and black markings.

It is found over the northern and eastern parts of South Africa. It is also quite widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa beyond our borders. In fact, it is one of the most widely distributed species of chameleon in the world.

The term 'Flap-neck' in its name refers to the two flaps of skin at the back of its head. The size of these flaps varies considerably from region to region. The age and sex of the individual also influences the flap size. The Common Flap-neck Chameleon sheds its skin regularly and will try and scrape the old skin off against twigs. It will also use its feet to try and remove the skin. It has even been recorded eating its dead skin.

These chameleons are normally found in trees, where they can be quite common. Their preferred habitats are coastal forests, gardens and grassland. They are most commonly seen walking painfully slowly across roads where they unfortunately run the risk of being squashed. Please resist the temptation to take one home. If you must help a chameleon that is at risk of being run over, then let it climb on a stick and place it in the vegetation on the side of the road. Young Common Flap-neck Chameleons may be found in areas of tall grass and smaller bushes.

These reptiles feed on insects such as flies, crickets, grasshoppers, and butterflies. Larger specimens will even eat other reptiles such as geckos.

The Common Flap-neck Chameleon is preyed upon by a variety of other animals including snakes such as the Twig Snake and Boomslang.

Females lay up to 10 and 40 eggs in a hole dug in sand. The hole is normally more than 30 cm in depth. Apparently, the eggs take up to six months to develop before they are ready to be laid. This is done towards the end of summer and the eggs take up to a year to hatch.

Unfortunately for this species it does well in captivity which makes it a sought-after animal. Between 1977 and 2011 around 3,000 to 4,000 were brought into the country each year. In captivity the Common Flap-neck Chameleon may live for 5 to 8 years.

Despite the threat from the pet trade this species is currently not threatened. Fortunately, the gardens that us humans love so much make good habitat for chameleons.

References and further reading

The Reptiles of the Kruger National Park - Author: U. de V. Pienaar, WD Haacke and NHG Jacobsen - Published: 1983 - Page: 56

The Sandton Field Guide - Author: Sandton Nature Conservation Society - Published: 1982 - Page: 71

Wild About Johannesburg - Author: Duncan Butchart - Published: 1995 - Page: 65

Wild Issue 46 - Author: - Published: 2019 - Page: 32

Wildlife of Southern Africa - Author: Martin Withers and David Hosking - Published: 2011 - Page: 250

Sasol First Field Guide to Snakes & other Reptiles of Southern Africa - 2nd edit - Author: Tracey Hawthorne - Published: 2016 - Page: 52

Southern African Wildlife - Author: Readers Digest - Published: 1989 - Page: 238

Suburban Wildlife in KZN - Author: Dr. Jason Londt - Published: 2009 - Page: 108

Reptiles of Southern Africa - Author: Rod Patterson and Anothony Bannister - Published: 1987 - Page: 47

Reptiles & Amphibians of Southern Africa - Author: Warren Schmidt - Published: 2006 - Page: 60

Field Guide to the Cradle of Humankind - Author: B. Hilton-Barber & Prof. L. R. Berger - Published: 2004 - Page: 177

Game Ranger in your Backpack - Author: Megan Emmett and Sean Pattrick - Published: 2013 - Page: 194

go! - Issue 085 - Author: - Published: 2013 - Page: 26

go! - Issue 141 - Author: - Published: 2018 - Page: 24

Illustrated Guide to the Game Parks and Nature Reserves of SA - 2nd edn - Author: Readers Digest - Published: 1991 - Page: 406

Questions and Answers - Snakes and Reptiles of Southern Africa - Author: John Comrie-Greig - Published: 1992 - Page: 7

Questions and Answers - Snakes and Reptiles of Southern Africa - Author: John Comrie-Greig - Published: 1992 - Page: 14

Questions and Answers - Snakes and Reptiles of Southern Africa - Author: John Comrie-Greig - Published: 1992 - Page: 30

Chameleons of Southern Africa - Author: Krystal Tolley & Marius Burger - Published: 2007 - Page: 87

Bill Branchs Field Guide to the Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa - Author: Bill Branch - Published: 1988 - Page: 186

A Guide to the Reptiles of Southern Africa - Author: Graham Alexander and Johan Marais - Published: 2007 - Page: 204

Tyrone Ping - Chameleons of Southern Africa


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