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Population densities and conservation assessments for three species of chameleons in the Toliara region of south-western Madagascar

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Madagascar is a high conservation priority. Rainforests receive most of the focus, but the dry deciduous and spiny forests of south-western Madagascar house many endemics, are under high deforestation pressure, and remain largely unprotected. Charismatic vertebrates, like chameleons, face a secondary threat: harvesting for the commercial pet trade. Six chameleons inhabit the arid southwest near Toliara: Furcifer antimena, F. belalandaensis, F. labordi, F. lateralis, F. oustaleti, and F. verrucosus. We measured population densities of three of those species. Furcifer verrucosus has a large distribution, was dense (97.7 ha–1; 95% CI = 60.2-158.6), and inhabited forests and anthropogenic habitats. Furcifer labordi was much less dense (30.8 ha–1; 13.4-70.9), has a restricted range, and has a unique life history that makes it susceptible to perturbations from deforestation or illegal harvesting. Furcifer antimena was the least dense (17.0 ha–1; 9.3-30.9) and has an even smaller distribution range. We lack density data for F. lateralis, but this species was abundant in anthropogenic habitats. Within their respective ranges, there are currently no protected areas for F. antimena and only few for F. labordi; these two species are far less abundant than the more widely spread F. verrucosus. We recommend that high conservation priority be focused on F. antimena and the southern populations of F. labordi due to their restricted distributions, susceptibility to extirpation, lower population densities, and lack of formal protection. Establishing protected areas in the Ranobe region and north of the Fiherenana River, in the Belalanda region, would help protect important populations of these vulnerable species.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078, USA, Department of Biology, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, TX, 76129, USA;, Email:; 2: Département de Biologie Animale, Université d'Antananarivo, BP 906, Antananarivo, 101, Madagascar; 3: Department of Zoology, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078, USA; 4: American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY 10024, USA


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