Jackson’s Chameleon Natural History

Jackson’s Chameleon images on this page are courtesy of Petr Necas

It is critical that we understand the natural habitat of our chameleons. This is the environment they have developed to live in and anything other than that is testing their tolerance levels. We, as Jackson’s Chameleon enthusiasts, must make it our passion to study their natural conditions. For anyone not in Kenya or Tanzania this is difficult so we must rely on the reports from people who have been there. General environmental data is available, but we must know context. What is the chameleon doing within those conditions?

Africa and Kenya and Tanzania

The chameleon community has two explorers that have shared their journeys. Jan Stipala, author of “Mountain Dragons” and Petr Necas, author of “Chameleons: Nature’s Hidden Jewels”. Both have excellent interviews available for listening and research. Jan Stipala gives us an overview of the chameleons of the Kenyan highlands.

[smart_track_player url=”http://traffic.libsyn.com/chameleonbreeder/Jan_Stipala_mixdownB.mp3″ title=”Mountain Dragons with Jan Stipala” artist=”Bill Strand – Chameleon Breeder Podcast” ]

Jackson’s Chameleons are from highlands in Kenya and Tanzania. The different subspecies  live at altitudes between 1500 meters to 2300 meters above sea level so they experience cooler weather than many people first think of when envisioning Africa.

Petr Necas had just returned from a trip to Kenya where he specifically studied Jackson’s Chameleons. This interview is one of the finest as far as detailed information on the xantholophus subspecies of Jackson’s Chameleon in the wild.

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There are many varieties of Jackson’s Chameleon and it is certain that the group will be split up into more species and subspecies. The chart below gives a basic idea of their range. The species/subspecies names adhere to the subspecies guide found on the Sub-species page

Range of Jackson's Chameleon in Kenya and Tanzania

Range of Jackson’s Chameleon in Kenya and Tanzania

Petr wrote about Trioceros jacksonii xantholophus:

Trioceros jacksonii xantholophus typically inhabits altitudes around 1500-1700m a.s.l. In a belt across the eastern foothills and slopes of Mt Kenya (from Embu to Meru) and extends more northeast to Nyambene range as far as Maua and beyond.

The climate is relatively stable throughout the year if it comes to:
temperatures (daily minimum around 10’C/50’F, daily maximum 25-28’C/77-82’F)
and air humidity (daytime under 40% – as low as 20%, night time always 100% with frequent fog)
There are two rainy seasons there (March to May and October to December) with rich precipitations and dry season, when rains can be scarce to absent for several months.

They spend their day.  with the exception of early morning and late afternoon hours, in dense bushes, where the temperatures (on sunny days) can be 5-8 degrees lower than the given maximum.

In the captivity,
It is absolutely necessary to copy the main tendency of the climate:
1. High humidity at night time
2. Low humidity at daytime
3. Temperatures at daytime only 20-23’C (68-73’F) with possibility to bask twice a day for max one hour at 28-32’C (82-90’F)
4. Temperatures at nighttime under 15’C(60’F)

These conditions are essential for their wellness

The most frequent mistakes in husbandry are:
Low humidity at nighttime (leading to dehydration and necessity to heavily drink, which they normally do not do)
High temperatures at night (leading to lack of sleep, exhaustion)
High temperatures at daytime combined with high humidity (leading to URI, TGI, mouthrot, eye infections)

Providing them the right conditions leads to strong and vivid animals that can last in the captivity for up to 8 years and reproduce many times…

Tour Guide icon

Our next stop on the guided tour is the subject of chameleons as pets. Many people are excited at the thought of keeping a Jackson’s Chameleon as a pet. While it is true that it is exciting, it is a sizable commitment. Here you will find information on what keeping a Jackson’s Chameleon as a pet is like.