Itâs a lonely life for Piper, a one-year-old Chameleon, currently struggling to adjust to his new Bermudian home.

The latest addition to the collection of animals at the Bermuda Aquarium Museum & Zoo arrived on the island a week ago.

He is the first part of the new Madagascar exhibit ö which is taking a painstaking amount of preparation to put together.

Piperâs dietary requirements alone ö he eats crickets with a dusting of vitamin and calcium supplements ö have caused enormous logistical difficulties.

The zoo has had to build a new cricket house and work out diet plans for them ö so that the chameleon gets all the nutrition he needs.

Piper is just one tiny piece in a multi-million dollar jigsaw as experts at the zoo attempt to meticulously reconstruct the environment of Madagascar in a small corner of Bermuda.

Dr Ian Walker, the curator of the aquarium and zoo, likens the construction of the exhibit itself to putting together a film set.

Latex moulds of the distinctive craggy Tsingy rocks found on the east African island are being taken.

They will be grafted on to padded concrete and steel mesh blocks to create rock formations where Lemurs and Fossas will roam.

There could even be fibreglass molds of tree bottoms and bamboos.

There will also be a reconstruction of the Caves of Ankarana ö where visitors can view snakes and a variety of other reptiles in backlit exhibits.

Dr Walker said: ãThe major part of putting together an exhibit is making sure we have the animals to go into it.

ãWe donât take animals from the wild, we get them from breeding programmes in zoos around the world.

ãIt takes time to get the animals you want ö you can spend $1.8million building an exhibit and find you have to wait years to get the animals to put into it.

ãSo far we have the chameleon and we have 30 more animals on order ö the exhibit wonât open until late 2006.

ãBut you canât just put in an exhibit and put animals in it and expect them to do well.

ãThere is an enormous amount of work to bring in one animal. It goes through medical checks, quarantine, it has its diet papers that go with it.

ãZoo nutrition is a complex subject ö you can complete a degree in zoo nutrition now.

ãYou need good staff who know how to look after the animals and you need the facilities.ä

Part of the $6.6million redevelopment at the aquarium and zoo, to be financed on a 50-50 split by Government and the private sector, is about upgrading those facilities.

New quarantine rooms, dietary preparation areas with walk-in freezers and a fully equipped animal hospital are all part of the plans.

Dr Walker, a trained vet himself, will be in overall charge of the hospital ö though the zoo will continue to use vets from the Endsmeet Animal Hospital and could bring in professionals on internships

from zoos overseas.

ãEvery zoo should have some sort of animal hospital on site. This is something we have been looking to do for a while ö it is much easier to be able to treat the animals here than to take them out to Endsmeet.ä

He added that the new facility would enable vets to attempt treatments that were never before possible in Bermuda ö like surgery on sharks.

ãWe will be able to do things that we donât even attempt at the moment,ä he added.