Reptile Smugglers at Delhi Airport!

September 5, 2013 | By dw
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By Aishuwarya Sudarshan

Imagine being bound and gagged with your arms folded behind your back and your feet duct taped tight ! This is how we found Rango at the Delhi International Airport when security cameras spotted a strange movement at the departure terminal! Airport officers were gob smacked to find a long green creature struggling to breathe and contacted our rescue team.

The green creature turned out to be a rare “Indian chameleon” who took us all by surprise as he was a victim of a hurriedly aborted reptile smuggling attempt. It appears his courier panicked at the security gate and dumped his package inside the nearest potted plant to evade arrest. We found him bound and gagged, his feet and tail duct taped most unceremoniously for the convenience of transport. He was struggling to stay upright. He looked very frail and seemed to weigh less than 100 grams making this operation a delicate procedure. It took longer than usual and as we removed layers and layers of tape gently from his scaly skin!

Once we had him free of tape, he seemed to be relieved as his eyes (operating individually and independent of each other) checked out his surroundings and he cautiously climbed up onto the nearest rescuers head swaying with each step!  He was safe.

The Indian chameleon (Chamaeleo zeylanicus) is found mainly in the dry parts of the Indian Subcontinent from Central to Southern India. This species can change color quickly, a mechanism that facilitates absorption of heat as well as successful camouflage. Their natural habitat is mixed deciduous and tropical forests dominated by trees, vines and tall bushes. However owing to habitat loss and habitat destruction, you can sometimes spot them in greenery filled urban areas as well. Chameleons are primarily insectivorous and can consume huge amounts of crickets, grasshoppers, beetles etc. “Rango” as we called him for reference seems to be a chameleon with an elephantine appetite as he rapidly worked at making our premises cricket, cockroach and insect free!

Indian chameleons demand a high value as exotic pets in the international black market, which is why they are smuggled out of the country to be bred in captivity and sold especially in the international market.

Rango, much like his Hollywood counterpart is quite an attention grabber and certainly has some stunning moves while his colours would leave you gasping. We hope to release him in the wild once we have stabilized his health after which we will start working on getting the paperwork to move him to his natural habitat.

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