"I know you’re fascinated by chameleons and talking about the idea that this thing came from the devil - that’s a view that’s still held in certain parts of the world today!"
Sir David Attenborough
"Oh, yes. In Madagascar there’s the biggest of all. It’s not a fisherman’s story, its body is about that long [gestures with fingers around 50cm apart] and with its tail as well it makes it very long indeed. And it’s very emotional. That is to say it changes colour if it gets angry - it gets black and red stripes on it. It’s an amazing thing.
It changes colour if it gets angry. It’s an amazing thing.
When I was working in Madagascar a few years ago, we were travelling round the island in a Land Rover catching animals for the London Zoo, and I caught one of these big ones which we kept in a cage. One night our car was broken into and the window was smashed, so it was quite a bit of a worry as to what we were going to do with all our valuable stuff in the car. Could we ever leave it? So what I did was get this very big animal and put him on the steering wheel! When people walked round I’d watch them scream - nobody would dream of breaking into the car and stealing things with that thing there, so it was very useful! A beautiful animal. But actually they are very frightening; when they fight one another they do so physically, but before that they try and scare the wits out of each other. They do that by sucking in lots of air to expand their bodies and they go black with rage, hissing at one another. Finally they engage until one of them says “OK, I've lost”, immediately changing its colour from a black to an almost pallid colour, dropping off the branch as if to say “OK, I give up”!"