The invasive veiled chameleon is close to being eradicated from Maui with the Maui Invasive Species Committee reporting that they have not seen the critter since spring 2008.
The veiled chameleon, or Chamaeleo calyptratus, is native to the mountain regions of Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The veiled chameleon can live in environments up to 9,000 feet in elevation and can grow as long as 2 feet from tip to tail. These tree-dwelling chameleons have no predators in Hawaii, and biologists fear that they may pose a threat to native creatures including Hawaiian forest birds.
The veiled chameleon, native to the mountain regions of Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, was first found on Maui in 2002. Spurred by the sighting, 206 chameleons have been captured and they have not been seen since the spring of 2008.
"We have not found a veiled chameleon since the spring of 2008, despite regular searches," said Adam Radford, operations manager with the Maui Invasive Species Committee. "This indicates that even if veiled chameleons are out there, there are only a few."
The first veiled chameleon was found in Kaanapali in 2002. News about the discovery resulted in reports of the lizard in Makawao. A search in Makawao organized by the committee recently turned up no chameleons.
To date, 206 chameleons have been captured, 31 of which have been reported by residents.
"Public reports have been instrumental in control efforts," Radford said.
The veiled chameleon can be recognized by the large sharklike casque on its head, present on both males and females. The veiled chameleon does not have horns like the Jackson's chameleon.
According to Radford, there is a strong possibility that veiled chameleons may be out there still, and not just in Makawao. Smuggled in through the pet trade, they have likely been moved around the island as pets, a news release said.
It is illegal to keep this species as a pet and possession can result in a fine of up to $200,000 and three years in jail. Illegal pets can be surrendered to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture through an amnesty program.
Any sightings of veiled chameleons can be reported to the Maui Invasive Species Committee at 573-6472.