Inside the Clandestine World of Chameleon Ranching
Chameleons, like many non-native reptiles, have gotten loose in Florida. They escaped from breeding operations and proceeded to do the three things chameleons do best: look pretty, move very slowly, and make more chameleons. Intentionally releasing invasive species into the wild is illegal...but catching them isn't.
In a classic bit of Florida weirdness, "herpers" have taken to tracking down spots where these now-wild chameleons live and breed. Like a real-world version of Pokemon Go, herpers quietly exchange locations of these "chameleon ranches" (spots where chameleons have begun breeding in the wild), and they visit them at night. Some have even taken the illegal step of creating their own chameleon ranches by releasing more chameleons into the wild.
In the short National Geographic documentary below, we visit one Florida fruit stand owner whose land has become a chameleon ranch and a target for herpers. We also meet the herpers themselves, who typically go about their hobby at night, shining flashlights in the wilderness. "In our free time, we don't go out drinking. We go out herping," says one.
In addition to the surprising world of herping and chameleon ranching, this video does a solid job of mythbusting—chameleons don't use their color-changing power for camouflage. Tune in to learn all about it: