Chameleons Galore introduces the world of reptiles to children.

Uncovering the world of the veiled chameleon

Sooke breeder helps children learn about the world around them by focusing on chameleons

The small lizard is placed in the young boy’s hand. He talks softly to it and it listens, its eyes blinking every now and again. The boy feels the touch of the lizard’s tiny fingers and toes and squeals in delight.

The veiled chameleon is unnerved by the response. It’s happy to just eat a few bugs and enjoy the warmth of the boy’s hand.

With its calm disposition, the chameleon is becoming a unique teaching tool in local schools.

For the last two years, Monika MacDermott has taken her menagerie of chameleons to classrooms with her business Chameleons Galore.

“They’re really, really friendly and the kids just love them,” says MacDermott, who also hosts birthday parties.

The focus is always on education and helping children understand the world around them.

MacDermott began her love affair with veiled chameleons when she found one 14 years ago in a Calgary alleyway, which had gotten away from its owners.

She was fascinated by the creature, and began researching everything she could about it. It wasn’t long before she became one of the biggest breeders in Canada.

Three years ago, MacDermott moved to Sooke where she continues to breed the lizards in her Sunriver Estates home, along with a variety of insects to feed her pets. Her collection of chameleons includes 36 breeders and more than 100 babies.

The idea to take chameleons into schools came when MacDermott held a garage sale at her home and people peeked into her garage to see her “little jungle” filled with lizards. Her friends suggested she should take the chameleons to schools and birthday parties.

She now does more than 50 presentations and birthday parties a year.

“The parties are very educational. It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun,” MacDermott says.

“People didn’t know that much about chameleons when I first started in Sooke, but now everybody’s talking about them.”

The BCSPCA is opposed to the keeping and breeding of exotic animals, whether it is for a private pet, roadside zoo, traveling attraction, or for the entertainment industry, said Dr. Sara Dubois, chief scientific officer for the BCSPCA.

“There is no regulation for breeders in B.C., so anyone can be a breeder, and we definitely don’t think it’s a good idea to use exotic animals for paid exhibitions,” she said, adding few veterinarians possess the training or experience to deal with the needs of exotics.

MacDermott takes four adult chameleons, representing three different species, to presentations. Each lizard has a name, but are handled carefully and not forced on any child.

“We don’t pass the chameleon around. We use a sanitizer. We ask the children if they want to feel the chameleons. I go around and show them how to handle a chameleon,” said MacDermott, who has a teaching degree.

“Too much handling can be stressful for them, so we try to limit that, but the kids are definitely very excited.”

When lizards are frightened or get stressed they will open their mouth and hiss like a cat and give a warning. They likely won’t bite.

Chameleon males can also be very territorial and when they see another male will make themselves look big and change colour.

“I’ve never had issues with them,” MacDermott said.

MacDermott estimates she has spent more time researching and studying Chameleons than she ever did in university studying for her degree.

“I love what I do and I love my animals.”

For more on Chameleons Galore, please go online to chameleonsgalore.com or Facebook.

Quick Fact

The veiled chameleon is a small slow-moving Old World lizard with a prehensile tail, long extensible tongue, protruding eyes that rotate independently, and a highly developed ability to change colour. There are more thann 180 species of chameleons, ranging in size from 1.5 to 70 centimetres.

 

Just Posted

Travel tips for passing through the Victoria airport this holiday season

It may be small in size but Victoria International Airport was voted one of the top 10 busiest in Canada

GUEST OPINION: Slinging mud and giving to charity

Potters come together to help Sooke charities

Sooke’s under-14 girls squad ready for playoff tests

Sooke team has perfect record so far

Two people taken to hospital following crash on West Saanich Road

An SUV left the road and crashed just after 7:30 Wednesday morning

World Juniors fast approaching as selection camp begins in Colwood

BC Hockey and provincial dignitaries launched the championship on Tuesday at The Q Centre

Miniature Christmas Land is back in Saanich

Local family continues to open intense Christmas-themed basement to public

Heart attack raises questions about boarding ferry

Quadra Island man recovering after being airlifted to hospital in Victoria

Judge gives Michael Cohen 3 years in prison

Judge William H. Pauley III said Cohen deserved a harsh punishment for crimes including tax evasion

Humboldt Broncos, cannabis, Fortnite: Here are Canadians’ top Google searches for 2018

When celebrities died or Canada Post went on strike, Canada turned to Google

B.C. billionaires worth 5,845 times average middle-income household

Economists argue for changes to Canadian tax system benefitting rich

Condominium market still ‘a lot better’ than normal in Vancouver suburbs

The Fraser Valley, east of Metro Vancouver, has long been considered a more affordable haven for first-time homebuyers.

Vancouver Island artisan says new fish farm brand too close to his Indigenous name

Marine Harvest prepares to change name to Mowi amid objections from Mowisaht Designs

Retired B.C. teacher a YouTube Sudoku sensation

A retired Kelowna teacher has amassed quite the following online by teaching the art of solving a Sudoku puzzle.

UN chief returns as climate talks teeter closer to collapse

Predictions from international climate expert, warn that global warming is set to do irreversible environmental damage.

Most Read