Rwenzori Mountains Situated within western Uganda near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo is the popular Rwenzori Mountains, one of the must-visit places for travelers taking safaris in Uganda, the Pearl of Africa.
The Rwenzori Mountains offer shelter to a number of wildlife species that are endemic to the region including the legendary three-horned chameleons, also referred as the “Johnston’s Chameleon. Did you ever imagine encountering such as phenomenal attraction? This is possible within the Rwenzori Mountains hence worth encountering while on Uganda safaris with optional inclusion of Gorilla watching in Bwindi NP & Mgahinga National Park.
Scientifically known as Trioceros jacksonii, the three-horned chameleons are species of the Chamaeleonidae family that live in the East African region including Uganda. The scientific name of Trioceros means three (for the three horns found on the heads of mature chameleons) and the jacksonii was derived from Fredrick John Jackson, the first Governor of Kenya who was also a popular explorer and ornithologist.
These reptile species are one of East Africa’s endemic species that majorly inhabit regions with higher elevations of at least 3000 meters above sea level. This is the reason why the three-horned chameleons occupy the higher slopes of the magnificent Rwenzori Mountains among other places.
One interesting and recognizable difference between the male three-horned chameleons and the other species are the three horns on their foreheads. Just like other species of these reptiles, these exceptional chameleons are very good at hide using their extraordinary skills of changing color to blend with the surrounding environment. Majority of the chameleons use this wonderful talent of changing colors so as to hide away from enemies especially predators that include the dangerous snakes and birds.
Just like other Chameleons, they also change color to easily hunt down their preys that include small insects. Change of color is also a means of communication because they can express mood to fellow chameleons and show intentions of either courting with the females or even fighting a male counterpart.
The Rwenzori Mountains offer shelter to numerous several three-h0rned chameleons and several times cannot help but show their changing color whenever in another environment. When on green vegetation, they undeniably turn their skin color to conform within the environment and when on brown soil, the same applies. The following are the interesting facts about the three-horned chameleons;
These reptiles have a lifespan of around 10 years while in captivity. By about 6 to 12 months, an average mature Johnston’s chameleon measures 30 centimeters long. A mature male measures up to 38 centimeters whereas the females measure up to 25 centimeters
These Reptiles always give birth to eight to thirty off springs after a gestation period of five to six months. These exceptional Chameleon species are endemic to the Albertine rift valley region and can be sighted within Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable, Rwenzori Mountains and Mgahinga National Parks, in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
They are omnivorous with their diet mainly comprising of insects such as bugs, grasshoppers, small birds, crickets, spiders, and butterflies as well as snails, millipedes, centipedes, lizards and small birds but are also prey to snakes and larger birds.
Unfortunately, the Johnston’s Chameleons are normally threatened by humans who destroy their habitats while others keep them in captivity because of the myths that they are very magical due to their horns hence a great threat to their survival.
Three-horned chameleons have tongues with unique muscles at the tip to allow them trap their prey. Their feet are different from that of the Lizards because they are capable of holding on tree trunks while climbing up. Their exceptional eyes are able to rotate for 360 degrees hence can see in all directions even when not moving. This also offers opportunities of capturing their prey from all directions or even protecting themselves against their predators.