Zoo Refugees: Stump-tailed Dwarf Chameleons and Animal Confiscations

When you visit the Zoo, you get to see lots of animals – from elephants to meerkats to jellyfish to Komodo dragons – and each of them has a story. Some of them are facing extinction and are among the last representatives of their species, while others are there because they were injured or orphaned out in the wild and needed a home. Still others, as you will learn here, were confiscated.

So goes the story of several of the Zoo’s most recent arrivals, the stump-tailed dwarf chameleons. These little reptiles were making a journey into the US to become a part of the pet trade. When the chameleons arrived, many had perished and the others were in poor health and severely dehydrated-there were a lot of them, but only a small percentage survived, as they are very delicate animals.

One of the recently confiscated stump-tailed dwarf chameleons
One of the recently confiscated stump-tailed dwarf chameleons

A number of zoos were asked to take in these confiscated chameleons, because no single zoo had the facilities house all of them. That’s one of the great things about zoos – we work together very well, because our mission is the same: to help animals whenever and wherever we can.

We were able to take in 15 chameleons from this confiscation, but by the time we were able to nurse them back to health, only 6 made it. You can visit those 6 animals, now thriving and healthy, in the Reptiles & Amphibians Building.

You can see these chameleons in their habitat inside the Reptiles & Amphibians Building
You can see these chameleons in their habitat inside the Reptiles & Amphibians Building

With reptiles, a lot of the reason why they are coming into the country in the first place is to become pets. Many times they are captured out of the wild and kept in very poor conditions until they can be shipped (often also in very poor conditions). By the time they get to the US, the odds aren’t good that most will survive.

It’s not a bad thing at all to have a reptile as a pet, but it is important to know a few things first before you get started. Here are a few tips if you’re considering it:

  1. Do your research. What does the animal eat? What is its life span? Where does it live, and how will you make a home for it? How does it get water? Stump-tailed dwarf chameleons, like many lizards and some snakes, don’t drink from a water bowl. They actually need to be “rained on” with a mister or else they won’t get the water they need.
  2. Choose an animal at your skill level. Some animals are way harder to take care of than others, so know what you can handle and how much time and energy it will take to care for them. These little chameleons take a lot of work – only try this at home if you’re sure you can handle it!
  3. Find a good breeder that is responsible. You may find a good quality pet store, or you may visit an expo like the one the East Texas Herpetological Society holds each fall.
  4. Ask the right questions. Ask questions of your breeder like “has this animal been captive bred?” If the answer is yes, that’s a good thing. There is no need to take animals out of the wild. Some breeders may say “this animal has been captive born” – that doesn’t count. They may have taken the parents out of the wild, and that is no good at all. Find another breeder.
  5. Be prepared. Purchase all the “gear” you will need for your animal, like caging, lighting, food, water, and more. Go back to your research and be sure to read the instructions on how to set everything up properly too.

The more people that take the steps to help pick out the right pet, the less confiscations and “bad guys” there will be, and the better off the animals in the wild will be too. And while there are only 6 left, those little stump-tailed dwarf chameleons are not only adorable, but they are also important ambassadors to help tell the story of how we can help out animals by being responsible with our choices.

A stump-tailed dwarf chameleon is not even as big as your finger!
A stump-tailed dwarf chameleon is not even as big as your finger!


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Houston Zoo Facebook Page

The rings are in! Shasta stands watch to guard rings for students at University of Houston. ... See MoreSee Less

9 hours ago

The rings are in! Shasta stands watch to guard rings for students at University of Houston.

Jorge Vega, Julie Hargrave and 2341 others like this

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Beth BanksOk...I am old enough to remember when Shasta was alive and well, strolling around campus! Needless to say, she was beautiful to see each morning!

7 hours ago   ·  10
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David RaffettoThis really is a cool tradition. Thanks, Houston Zoo!

6 hours ago   ·  3
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Amanda FloresWish I was there to witness it

8 hours ago
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Stacey SandersOklahoma gonna take those rings come week 1!!!

4 hours ago

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Patty PeErik I want my ring in there soon 😫

7 hours ago   ·  2

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Eliseoo HdzThis is dumb but oh well

4 hours ago
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Ryan AvCheryl Love Avina we need to go see Shasta!

8 hours ago
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Denise NelsonLove these college tradition. Got my MEd there

7 hours ago
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Julie CooperCan someone explain about the rings for us English folk please xx

8 hours ago   ·  2

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Kloe WoosleyRyan Woosley you're lucky Beaumont is closer :p I would die to be a cougar.

9 hours ago   ·  1
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Donna S. GuerreroWhat a beautiful cat !! ❤️

8 hours ago   ·  1
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Shannon RaffettoGo Coogs!!

6 hours ago
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Beatriz Medina-LaresTanya Torres is your ring in here???

9 hours ago   ·  1

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Jaime FrancoAnybody got pics of this?

1 hour ago
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Davi Case GarzaEsther Garza check out Shasta!

8 hours ago
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Austin VaughnYay Shasta!

3 hours ago
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Ronnie LeeI totally want to pet shasta. :o

8 hours ago   ·  1
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Leo N CandiceWill she be protecting them all weekend so that we can go and see

7 hours ago   ·  1
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Jennifer DailyEva, check it out!

2 hours ago
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Casey Mcaninchwow thats a great pic

9 hours ago   ·  1
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Claudia AndBetty VargasAlgun dia estaran los de ustedes ahi 😉✌

3 hours ago
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Clifford StoutThat's stupid

8 hours ago

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Celeste MarquezOur rings are supposed to be in there 😭😭 Jesus Aguilar we are such procrastinators.

7 hours ago
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Natalee CrianzaOmg how cute

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Andrea SilverWhose house???

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Our pair of elderly male African painted dogs were excited to meet their new pack-mates, three female dogs that recently moved to Houston from a zoo in the UK! Check out the video and learn more about the new group here: www.houstonzoo.org/endangered-wild-dogs-form-new-pack/ ... See MoreSee Less

1 day ago

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Cathryn GaborLet's protect this spectacular endangered species! Fundraiser on May 3 in Houston benefiting Painted Dog Conservation. Thank you Houston Zoo!

1 day ago   ·  3

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Emilee MayberryI've never even seen them moving! They are always sleeping in the same spot. Maybe these new girls will revitalize the pack :)

1 day ago   ·  8
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Lilian CorriganIt's cool to see them so active. Whenever we visit the zoo they are usually just laying around.

1 day ago   ·  2
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Linda TidswellSure hope they weren't moved here because they mate then kill their mates😂

22 hours ago   ·  1
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Michelle MungerThey were sleeping when I was there.

1 day ago
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Patricia TamézBlaze and Mikita have new friends!

1 day ago
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Austin VaughnAww! Look at those precious puppies!

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De'jon BaptisteI love dogs

20 hours ago
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Ashley NicholeJamie these are awesome

23 hours ago   ·  1

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Michelle Wheatley PajakRobin Roxburgh Kellogg 😄😄yay!! Makes me happy!

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Lori Miller SouderGorgeous animals!!!

1 day ago
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Diana KimmelThat's awesome!

21 hours ago
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Annita Smith McGinnesRhianna Rhee Hedrick, did you see this?

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