Native Reptiles Of Tanzania

The West Usambara Two-Horned Chameleon.
The West Usambara Two-Horned Chameleon.

Tanzania is an east African country which is extremely rich in wildlife. The country is home to six of the world's 25 recognized biodiversity hot spots. Tanzania's extensive diversity includes over 14,500 known and confirmed species, many of them endemic. Roughly 20% of Africa's large mammals and over 33% of Africa's plant life can be found here. More specifically, Tanzania is home to a number of endemic reptile species, including chameleons, lizards, geckos, and turtles.


The West Usambara two-horned chameleon is endemic to the West Usambara Mountains of Tanzania. Until 2008, it was generally confused with Fischer's chameleon, another species endemic to Tanzania but not found in the Usambara Mountains. The rosette-nosed chameleon is a smaller species found in the same mountain region. It is an endangered species, ash-gray in color, with a distinctive nasal appendage. The spiny-flanked chameleon, also known as the spiny-sided chameleon, is another chameleon species endemic to Tanzania. It can only be found in the Udzungwa Mountains, in forests and dense woodland. This species gives birth to live young. Populations are threatened by collectors for the international pet trade industry, as well as habitat destruction, and the species is considered endangered.


The Cape Grass Lizard, sometimes referred to as the Cape Snake Lizard or the Highland Grass Lizard, is commonly found in the grasslands of southern Africa. Populations are affected by frequent wildfire, so females have evolved to be fertile throughout the year. This species is ovoviviparous and gives birth to live young. The Ukinga girdled lizard lives in the rocky regions of central Tanzania. This species sports a white upper lip and a distinctive dark band on the sides of the neck. Recently, Ukinga girdled lizards have been exported in the pet trade, where they are often incorrectly labeled as "armadillo lizards." This false name is also commonly given to the East African spiny-tailed lizard, which is brown and cream with a black stripe and spiny tail. The Mwanza flat-headed rock agama is another fashionable pet. Nicknamed the Spider-Man agama because of its resemblance to the well-known comic book hero. This lizard is found in arid, rocky areas of Tanzania, Rwanda, and Kenya. Females of this species are neutral in color, while the male sports showy bright red or violet shoulders and a dark blue lower body.

Other reptiles, such as the white-headed dwarf gecko, the African forest turtle, and Williams' mud turtle, are commonly found throughout much of the rest of Africa.

Environmental Threats and Protection in Tanzania

Although Tanzania has taken great steps in protecting its biodiversity, and in the process devoting nearly 40% of its total surface area to wildlife habitat protection, the general trends of environmental degradation in the region are alarming nonetheless. Many ecosystems, whether they be terrestrial or aquatic, are deteriorating, with significant depletion of natural reserves, while a significant number of reptile and other species are under pressure and a few are on the brink of extinction.

Native Reptiles Of Tanzania

Native Reptiles of TanzaniaScientific Name
West Usambara Two-horned chameleon
Kinyongia multituberculata
African Forest turtle
Pelusios gabonensis
Cape Grass LizardChamaesaura anguina
Ukinga Girdled lizard
Cordylus ukingensis
Spiny-Flaked ChameleonTrioceros laterispinis
Mwanza Spider-Man AgamaAgama mwanzae
Rosette-nosed chameleon
Rhampholeon spinosus
East African Spiny-tailed lizard
Cordylus tropidosternum
Williams's Mud turtle
Pelusios williamsi
Painted Dwarf gecko
Lygodactylus picturatus

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