The strange case of a beloved chameleon taken by a suspected wildlife “vigilante” came to an unexpected end when a truck was found trying to cross a busy Florida highway, rescuers say.
Carroll Distributing Company driver Noah Kenny reports seeing the chameleon on Wednesday, Sept. 13, along South Patrick Drive in Satellite Beach, according to the Wild Florida Rescue.
“Such a miracle,” the agency wrote in a Facebook post. “Worried that the chameleon would be run over (Kenny) quickly pulled over, grabbed the animal and put it in the cab of the truck with him.”
Kenny then moved on to his next delivery, where he paused to search social media and discovered that a chameleon had been stolen on August 24 from a wildlife rescue agency in Satellite Beach, about 65 miles southeast of Orlando.
A series of phone calls put the lizard back in the hands of Wild Florida Rescue later on September 13, and close inspection by staff revealed that it was indeed their stolen lizard, officials said.
Known as Cornelius, the chameleon is a wildlife “ambassador” for the nonprofit, which rescues wildlife from predicaments often related to Florida’s booming development.
It remains unclear what happened during the 20 days that Cornelius was missing, but the agency assumes that “it was some kind of vigilante” that involved “a kidnapping and release into the wild.”
“Someone just walked in the front and took him out of his cage and ran away with him,” the agency wrote on Facebook.
Chameleons are not native to Florida, but have made their way into some South Florida wildlife areas through the pet trade, the University of Florida says. Heavily developed Satellite Beach is not among the areas where they are known to survive, experts say.
Cornelius was not injured during his big adventure abroad, officials said.
“We can assure all that he is happy to be home and safe!” the agency said.
“He climbed right into his cage and had a great big meal! … Cornelius has a forever and ever home with Wild Florida Rescue.
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