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Mountain Dragons: In Search of Chameleons in the Highlands of Kenya

Art / Photobook

By: Jan Stipala (Author)

124 pages, 350 colour photos, colour illustrations, colour distribution maps

Jan Stipala (privately published)

Hardback | Jun 2014 | #227593 | ISBN-13: 9780992817602
Availability: In stock
NHBS Price: £25.99 $32/€29 approx

About this book

Mountain Dragons is a photographic account of a project to investigate chameleon species diversity across the central and western highlands of Kenya. The mountains of East Africa are fascinating places, beautiful landscapes covered in rainforest, bamboo and afroalpine moorlands. Despite being on the equator the climate can be very harsh with sub-zero temperatures and it is in these unusual environments that a unique chameleon fauna has evolved.

The author collaborated closely with staff from the National Museums of Kenya to extensively survey the mountains of the central and western highlands of Kenya to document the distribution of chameleons and collect specimens to investigate morphological and genetic variation within two widespread species, Trioceros jacksonii and Trioceros hoehnelii. Mountain Dragons also contains information on two recently described species of chameleon discovered during the field work, and photographs of rarely seen species. There are novel facts about chameleons including morphological variation, ecology and distribution. Some results from the scientific research are presented, which hopefully gives the reader a unique view of the montane chameleon fauna of Kenya.

"The late Alex Duff-MacKay, senior herpetologist at Kenya’s National Museum for 30 years, once wrote that chameleons “can melt the heart of bank managers [...] Chameleons have inspired many enthusiasts, generated Facebook groups and stimulated the production of richly illustrated books [...] Now biologist Jan Stipala has made his contribution, with this beautifully produced, large format book [...] The text is lucid, entertaining, and informative; Stipala’s easy style reads well. The color photos are one of this book’s strengths. [...] this is a bewitching, beautiful book, it brings alive the landscape, the chameleons, and the ordinary citizens of highland Kenya. All chameleon enthusiasts, East African herpetologists, and Kenyaphiles will want it – and many will want to visit. Jan Stipala has taken us into the heart of highland Kenya and its enchanting chameleons."
– Stephen Spawls, Herpetological Review 45(2), 2014


Preface   12
Introduction   13
How to Catch Chameleons   19
Travelogue   21
   Mount Kenya   22
   Aberdare Mountains   34
   Chameleon farming in Kenya   42
   Mount Kingangop   44
   Nyambene Hills   54
   Machakos Hills   58
   Samburu and Karisia Hills   64
   Loita Hills   68
   The western Highlands   72
   Cherangani Hills   80
   Kakamega and Yala forests   84
   Mount Elgon   86
   Mtelo massif   90
Species Profiles   97
   Trioceros bitaeniatus   98
   Trioceros conirostratus   99
   Trioceros ellioti   100
   Trioceros hoehnelii   101
   Trioceros jacksonii   102
   Trioceros kinangopensis   104
   Trioceros nyirit   105
   Trioceros schubotzi   106
   Trioceros sternfeldi   107
   Kunyongia excubitor   108
   Rhampholeon boulengeri   109
Research and Discoveries   111
   Morphology   112
   Phylogenetics   116
Photographing Chameleons   121
Index   122

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Jan Stipala graduated from the University of Notthingham with a Biology degree. He spent a year surfing in Australia before returning to the UK where he worked for the BBC Natural History Unit and the Environment Agency before eventually returning to education to study for his Doctoral thesis on Chameleon Diversity in the Highlands of East Africa.

His fascination for chameleons began with reading books and an interest in keeping them as pets. However this interest has led him further afield, traveling across Africa on an overland expedition and several shorter trips to Kenya and Tanzania to explore the highlands to look for and photograph chameleons. He has also used these trips to learn the Swahili language, always useful when you are travelling off the beaten track in East Africa. During these trips he discovered new information on chameleons, such as the presence of two species of two-horned chameleons living in the Usambara Mountains. This led to a collaboration with Jean Mariaux from Geneva Natural History Museum and Nicola Lutzmann and the eventual publication of a scientific paper reclassifying the two-horned chameleons of East Africa. Enthused by this work he decided to take his interest further and began a study of the chameleons from the highlands of Kenya. He has combined his research with a keen interest in photography to produce this book.

He lives in the south-west of England where he works as a lab technician at the University of Exeter.