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Jackson's Chameleon, Chamaeleo jacksonii


Introduction Jackson’s chameleons are a small, arboreal lizard that inhabits montane woodland forests. This species is native to Kenya and Tanzania in East Africa. They also have strong, introduced populations in Hawaii. They are diurnal in habit and will spend their days in the canopy of primary and secondary forest in search of various arthropods, which they are capable of capturing with their long, sticky tongue that they propel out of their mouth.

Acclimation and Quarantine Imported Jackson's maybe difficult to acclimate. While most are farm rasied, they are still raised in "natural conditions". Due to the stress from of being captured and imported to the country, most will require treatment for internal parasites. A major problem has to do with the fact that farm raised and wild-caught animals harbor tremendous parasite loads, which, in a natural environment, are easily dealt with. However, the stress of importation can suppress the lizard's immune system, in turn allowing the parasites to gain an upper hand on the health of the chameleon. Farm raised and wild caught animals should therefore be treated for parasites as soon as possible after purchase.

New imports are also often severely dehydrated. I have gathered a few ways to combat this issue. One way is to allow the lizard to lie on a branch in the shower with lukewarm water. This should be done as soon as the lizard is home. Be sure to supervise during these times to ensure that the chameleon does not get away (which is not likely). Another way is to place it in a bucket or other enclosed space filled with a half inch of lukewarm water. These methods are very effective as the Jackson's will often drink during these sessions.

Quarantine and acclimation enclosures do not need to be elaborate. Instead they should be sterile and easy to clean. Tall plastic storage bins are often used for such enclosures as they are easy to clean, come in a variety of sizes, and most provide the security needed for a freshly imported lizard. Paper towels, newspapers, or other easily cleaned materials may be used as the substrate. A few simple branches or pieces of doweling can provide climbing opportunities, and a small plastic container could be used as the water bowl. Artificial foliage should also be incorporated into the quarantine enclosure. This setup should be used until the Chameleon is feeding regularly and appears to be in good health.

Housing After the chameleon is acclimated and feeding well it may be put into a permanent cage. Jackson's don’t require very large enclosures. However, ample vertical space is a necessity as these lizards are mostly arboreal in their habits and will require such room to climb. A cage that is about 24” x 24” x 24” (L x W x H) is a minimum size for an individual or pair, but slightly larger enclosures are usually better. Glass enclosures can be used, but are not the best choice for this species. To ensure that the lizard feels secure, a cage with at least five opaque sides is recommended. Wooden cages are a better alternative than glass cages because of the heightened security, but the high humidity needed for these lizards can wear on wooden cages after a while. By far, the best cages for this species are those made of polyethylene or controlled density PVC. These cages usually have only one transparent side and can also withstand the high humidity needed within the habitat. Such cages are also usually inexpensive and attractive.

Branches are very important in furnishing the enclosure as this lizard will spend most of it's time in the perches and almost never descends to the bottom of the cage. They should be able to access any point in the cage by way of branches. There should be numerous visual barriers located through out the enclosure. Visual barriers should be placed in the branches to provide the chameleon with a sense of security in their arboreal habits. They should be placed at multiple levels to provide the chameleon with a thermal gradient. Jackson's Chameleons greatly prefer arboreal hides to those on the ground, so we highly recommend visual barriers. Large amounts of foliage should be used to create these visual barriers. They will provide the lizard with places to hide. For substrate, soil, mulch, ground coconut, and sphagnum moss are all acceptable.

Lighting and Heating Provide a basking spot for Jackson's Chameleon that is between 78 - 85 degrees F at the most. They are indigenous to mountains that have much cooler temperatures, and if over heated, could easily lead to the death of the chameleon. With that said, be sure to have a temperature gradient also to allow them to cool down when they get too warm. The opposite end of the tank should be 70 - 75 degrees. Night time temps can drop to 65 degrees, perhaps cooler, but not needed.

Jackson's Chameleons should also be exposed to UVB. Since these chameleons do not require high temperatures, we like to use compact fluorescent or tube lights to provide the UVB. Many diurnal lizards need UVB exposure to synthesize vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is necessary for calcium to be metabolized. These animals that are not exposed to UVB can develop Metabolic Bone Disease. If MBD isn't treated in a timely fashion, skeletal deformities, kidney failure, seizures, and eventually death will occur.

Feeding Jackson's Chameleons are mostly insectivores and will thrive on a diet of insects. Large adults may also be offered the occasional pinky.

Neonates and juveniles should be fed crickets as fast as they will consume them in a few minute time span. Feed them 2-3 times daily appropriately sized crickets, no larger than the width between the eyes of the lizard. Dusting crickets with a calcium supplement is essential to the rapid growth of baby chameleons. Dust your crickets every day or every other day. A vitamin supplement is important as well. Provide vitamins once or twice a week. Adults can be fed every other day.

Crickets should be gut-loaded to make them more nutritious. There are a lot of gut load products on the market or you can feed your crickets fresh vegetable and fruits. They will actually eat anything you give them such as cat, dog and fish food. What ever you choose to gut load your crickets with, be sure to offer them variety. What ever your crickets eat... your lizard eats as well.

Other bugs for your chameleon include but are not limited to Silk worms, Wax worms, Phoenix worms, Roaches, Meal worms and Super worms.

Water A dish of fresh water should always be available. Chameleons don't drink from standing water often, but it will aid in keeping the humidity raised. They must be misted or sprayed, as they will lap the water droplets off of the glass and decor of the tank. One may also choose to offer water directly to the chameleon via a pipette. I have been able to "teach" my chameleons to drink from a dish of water by placing a cricket in the water dish. After several times of feeding them in this manner, they may eventually start to drink from the dish.

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