#DiaryofaMuzungu’s Charlotte is back talking about Chameleons


(Posted 20th November 2020)

In number 16 of a series, Charlotte Beauvoisin shares some of her #LockdownDiaries from Kibale Forest in Western Uganda. Scroll down to read the first stories.

Changing colours before our eyes

Need I tell you how happy I am to be back on the edge of the forest?

It doesn’t matter how tired I am, I never fail to wake by 6.20 for the dawn chorus. The cold morning air fills with vibrant birdsong that rises in a crescendo – and then slowly ebbs away – it’s totally addictive!

Last night I left one of my wooden shutters open. It’s a minor detail since there are such big gaps between all the boards but living here is rather like camping. As I read in bed last night, I was dive bombed by a giant cicada. Surely their noisy flight makes them easy pickings for would-be predators?

It’s a sunny morning here on the edge of the forest. Our hill is surrounded by swamps meaning that we are often submerged in the mist. It can get rather cold at night. At 7.30 am the high branches of our favourite Ficus mucuso fig tree catch the first rays of sunshine.

I’ve been away from home for three weeks and everything green is sprouting like crazy. With minimal staff during the pandemic, it’s impossible to keep on top of all the slashing (cutting the grass and bushes) around the house. It does mean there must be a lot of mosquitoes around. (I’m not in a rush to find any after recovering from another bout of malaria!)

I take my morning walk towards the community football pitch that sits on the border with Kibale National Park. I recognise Sunbird Hill’s site guide Nick walking downhill towards me.

I’ve brought someone with me,” he says. I don’t see anyone. He pauses, pulls the pale green rucksack off his back and shows me a chameleon clamped to the bag!

It was black when I picked it,” he said.

Chameleons are such marvellous creatures!

Did you know their tongues are longer than their body? I watched one for a few minutes. He changed from bright green to a darker shade. As he slowly walked to the woody part of the tree, he changed brown and then black. I love how his small feet curled around the branches – and my fingers. The chameleon walked slowly and deliberately. At one point, his movement slowed to a jerk as he lurched forward one step at a time. “He is getting ready to hunt,” Nick explained.

Our junior site guide is full of information about chameleons. “Local people believe that if you catch measles, you can cure yourself by running a cloth over the chameleon and then rubbing yourself with the cloth.”

Some kids at school are scared of chameleons” according to my 10 year old nephew Dillon.

It always makes me chuckle at how Ugandans can be terrified of animals that my expat friends and I regard as harmless and even cute. I posted these images on the Diary of a Muzungu Facebook page. What a laugh we had! The Ugandans and expats were quite predictably divided: Kampala expats recounted tales of when they had a pet chameleon at home; a few Ugandans said they would rather run a mile in the opposite direction!

Felex Kamalha of Uganda Community Tourism Association, and native resident of the Rwenzori Mountains, posted “Chameleons are one of the most vulnerable creatures in neighbourhoods of indigenous tribes. Traditionally, the elders instilled fear to prevent children from harming them. This is a conservation strategy that worked very well. Likewise, many tribes used scary myths to prevent young generations from destroying the environment. These worked until now. Currently, the environment is in serious danger from the tribes after they have understood that they can touch and eventually harm every part of the environment. I have started seeing tribes grab chameleons, snakes and other small animals from their natural environment, to sell them.”

Disclaimer: No chameleons were hurt during the writing of this blog.

If you managed to read this far, you might enjoy my blog “Warning – this blog contains snakes!” (And chameleons) on Diary of a Muzungu.

If you enjoyed this story, look out for the next one in this series, exclusively here on www.ATCNews.org, written by Charlotte Beauvoisin.

The first stories in this series are:

No. 1 Cabbage patch inspiration

No. 2 I had been wondering where the elephants are

No. 3 Locked down and locked in with elephants

No. 4 Exactly how fast can you run?

No. 5 Bingeing on the great outdoors

No. 6 Buzzing about conservation

No. 7 Chimpanzee tea party

No. 8 Counting birds on Lake Saka, Fort Portal

No. 9 Bats in my belfry

No. 10 And finally, an elephant sighting!

No. 11 When Charlotte enjoys watching bushbucks without spending big bucks

No. 12 How low can you go? Birding in Uganda’s Rift Valley, Semliki

No. 13 Conservation in Africa during the Pandemic: podcast interview

No. 14 Not to be missed – Kyambura Gorge!

No.15 Web of connectedness

Charlotte is best known for her blog Diary of a Muzungu. She is one of Uganda’s leading travel writers, an influencer, marketing manager and trainer.

She lives at Sunbird Hill on the edge of Kibale National Park.

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