When David Njue and his brother, John Njiru started keeping chameleons in their farm in Kithegi village, Embu County, the locals thought they had resorted to witchcraft.
In Kenya it is believed that chameleons are used for witchcraft and are associated with bad luck.
Others say chameleons have poisonous acidic fluids they release when disturbed by human beings.
Those who believe the superstition cannot stand seeing a chameleon cross their paths but the two Embu brothers have defied all odds by keeping the little but feared creatures.
In their farm, Exotic International Farm, David and John keep nearly four thousand chameleons.
When The Counties visited the farm on a cold afternoon, David informed us that the cold blooded creatures had sought refuge in the bushes in the farm and can only be spotted on top of the trees on sunny days.
The chameleon species in the farm include, Jackson’s; the three horned chameleon, Fischeri, Hoehneli and Elioti species.
The farm which was established six years ago was a collaboration between the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Sander Van Willegen from Netherlands. The two brothers provided the land for chameleon farming.
“We started the farm with fifty chameleons of different species. We got them from Mount Kenya, Aberdares, Western and the Coast regions with the help of KWS officers,” David told The Counties.
In a society where chameleons are viewed as bad omen, many people declined associating with them.
Many people kill chameleons when they spot them but we conserve and encourage people to bring them to us,” he said.
He refuted the myths about chameleons and said the creatures are harmless.
He says they keep the creatures for export to Europe, Asia and Netherlands where they are kept as pets.
He revealed that a couple of chameleons are considered the most expensive wedding gift in Netherlands.
The animals feed on insects and some like the Jackson’s chameleon like snails.
John Njiru, David’s brother who is in charge of feeding the chameleons told The Counties that they throw entrails (animal intestines) in the farm to attract flies for the chameleons to feed on.
“We ask the children and other locals to look for snails and crickets and pay them once they bring them to us,” he told The Counties.
The farm is tightly fenced to prevent the chameleons from straying.
“Chameleons are shy animals, when I want to prune the bushes, I scare them to relocate to under the bushes so that I don’t injure them,” he added.
He says the chameleons which give birth every three months, are harvested any time of the year depending on the order.
“This year, we harvested them four times for export purposes,” added Njiru.
The two brothers said they have been reaping big from the feared creatures.
Upon receiving an order for export, David says, the chameleons are packed in plastic containers where they can survive for four days without food.
He says the chameleons cannot be exported without an export permit and an inspection certificate by the District Veterinary Officer.
Njiru rids the chameleons’ farm of predators like birds and cats.
He concludes by saying chameleon farming is profitable but tells prospective farmers to seek market before keeping them.