The Chamaeleo Chamaeleo Species, better known as «common chameleon» and also known as "lion of the earth" is a specie of the lizard family that only exists in the Algarve.
The most specific feature of these animals is their ability to change their color depending on the soil they are waling and, contrary to what most of us think, this color change isn’t only a camouflage method but also, as a form of communication and regulation of body temperature.
This change occurs due to the special cells that have pigments and are under the outer skin of the chameleon, being activated by a message from the brain. Once activated, the pigments blend together as if they were a kind of paint.
Theses species are distinguished from the others by its large tong, called ballistic tong, which can reach twice its size and reach its prey quickly. Their eyes can move independently of each other, so it can look at two different directions, acting on a 360-degree rotation.
The coastal zone from Monto Gordo (Vila Real de Santo António) forest stretching to Lagos and the dune areas along the entire Ria Formosa, as well as the Barreiras Islands, Armona, Culatra and Farol are the most favorable Algarvian places to observate this animals. If you want to see them, these will be the favorite places of this species, especially during the summer and in the light of day.
In these Islands, in particular in the Island of Armona, it’s possible to see a certain amount of these animals, so much that there is a Bar with the name of "Camaleão" (Chameleon), in homage to all that inhabit there.
The extinction of this species of lizards is a very present concern, due essentially to the changes in their natural habitat over the years, a phenomenon derived from pollution and deforestation. It’s in this sense that efforts have been made for its conservation, mainly in the coastal regions of the Algarve and Spain.
Another factor that contributed to a certain concern about this species is the fact that it doesn’t have a good dispersion capacity, that’s, it´s difficult to expand in other parts of the world. It’s in this sense that the Ria Formosa Natural Park (PNRF) and the Ria Formosa Coastal Polis intend to ensure the continuation of this species.
The appeal for protection of the Ria Formosa has led to this area becoming a protected area with both environmental and cultural importance, which must be preserved and cared for by all inhabitants and visitors, so that we can always enjoy the Ria and what it offers.