News Release: December 6, 2002

Posted on Dec 6, 2002 in 2002 News Releases, News-Releases

NR02-21 December 6, 2002

Six Live Illegal Veiled Chameleons Captured on Maui

Honolulu – Coordinated searches on Maui this week by members of the Maui Invasive Species Committee (MISC,) the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) have resulted in the capture of six live veiled chameleons, which are illegal in Hawaii. The captured chameleons include: one large adult male, two adult females (one of which is pregnant), and three juveniles (one male and two females). The lizards were found in close proximity to the location where a carcass of an adult male chameleon was found two weeks ago, confirming that a population has been established on Maui.

“The disturbing aspect of these captures is that we believe that this is a result of intentional releases of illegal animals into the wild with the purpose of establishing a population,” said Neil Reimer, HDOA’s Plant Quarantine Branch manager. “Veiled chameleons have never been allowed in Hawaii, not even for a municipal zoo.”

A photo opportunity of the chameleons has been scheduled this afternoon at 1:30 p.m. at HDOA’s Plant Quarantine Branch, 1849 Auiki Street near Sand Island.

The department again reminds anyone who has information on someone that possess, transports or releases illegal animals to please contact our PEST HOTLINE at the following numbers (direct toll free call neighbor islands):

Oahu – 586-PEST (7378)
Maui – 984-2400 ext. 67378
Big Island – 974-4000 ext. 67378
Kauai – 274-3141 ext. 67378
Molokai & Lanai – 1-800-468-4644 ext. 67378
All calls to the PEST HOTLINE are confidential. Any person or organization who intentionally transports, harbors or imports with the intent to propagate, sell or release illegal animals may be charged with a class C felony and subject to a maximum fine of $200,000, plus three years in prison.

“We implore people who have illegal animals to turn them in rather than releasing them into the wild,” Mele Fong, spokesperson for MISC. “Veiled chameleons eat birds, bird eggs, snails, and insects. The damage to the environment and to native species can be devastating.”

The state also offers an Amnesty Program which offers immunity from prosecution to encourage voluntary surrender of illegal animals. Under the program, illegal animals may be turned in without question to HDOA, a municipal zoo or the Humane Society.

Two searches were conducted this week in the early morning on Tuesday and early evening on Wednesday. The cooperative effort was organized by MISC, with assistance from personnel from the DLNR, HDOA and the Bishop Museum. In the past weeks, MISC has been canvassing Maui neighborhoods informing residents to be on the lookout for veiled chameleons and other alien species. Further surveys of the area will be conducted.

Veiled chameleons (Chamaeleo calyptratus) are native to Yemen and Saudi Arabia. They may grow to 18 to 24 inches long, significantly larger than the more common Jackson’s chameleons; and are distinguishable by a casque, or shark-like fin, on the top of the head that may measure between three to four inches high. They have no natural predators in Hawaii and are well-suited to our environment and climate.