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Jackson's Chameleon

Chamaeleo jacksonii

Jackson's Chameleon


Jackson's chameleons average 35 to 75 inches in length, with males being larger than females. Basic body color consists of varying shades of green with yellowish blotches, but it can be as dark as black when the animal is in great distress. Males have three long, pointed horns protruding from the head.

Distribution and Habitat

Jackson's chameleons are native to eastern Africa, primarily Kenya and Tanzania. They live in trees in mountain thickets and forests.


The Jackson's chameleon feeds primarily on insects and spiders.


When ready to mate, a male Jackson's chameleon will initiate a "threat display" to a chosen female which includes color changes, throat inflation and raising the forelegs. An unwilling female will return the threatening gestures, while a willing one will either make weak gestures or no gestures at all. A female will mate for up to 11 days, but almost never with the same male twice in one day.

Gestation takes approximately 190 days, with birth generally occuring in the morning. The young are delivered one at a time onto a branch. They are still surrounded by a gelatinuous egg sac and remain asleep until the egg touches the branch, at which time the young awaken and break through their egg sac. The female will mate again after 20 days. Sexual maturity is reached at the age of 9 or 10 months.

Other Behaviors and Habits

Males are territorial and will battle using their horns. When two males meet, they will turn sideways, flatten their bodies, curl their tails, thrust their heads forward, inflate themselves with air to appear larger, and turn brilliant colors. The submissive male will fade into drab colors and then either try to hide, freeze in place, or try to escape the area. When males do battle, they will poke each other with their horns and try to push each other off their branches. These fights can cause physical damage.

Conservation Status

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species lists all chameleons as threatened. Primary threats are habitat destruction and the exotic pet trade, the latter being the most destructive to the species. Because captive breeding programs have been largely unsuccessful, virtually every chameleon sold in a pet store was taken from the wild. On average, only 1 in 10 chameleons survive the trip to the pet store, and those that do survive often arrive malnourished and stressed. In addition, proper care methods for these animals is not well known, so many are then unknowingly mistreated. A Jackson's chameleon may live up to 10 years in the wild, but is probably lucky to live up to 5 years in captivity.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Reptilia
order Squamata
suborder Sauria
family Chamaeleonidae
genus & species Chamaeleo jacksonii


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This page was last updated on August 12, 2018.