Veiled Chameleon

INTRODUCTION

The Veiled Chameleon or Yemen Chameleon (Chameleo calyptratus) is listed as CITES II and has 2 defined subspecies: C. calyptratus calyptratus and C. calyptratus calacarifer. The main difference between the subspecies is the appearance of the crest or helmet. The C. calyptratus calyptratus has the largest up to 10cm whilst that of C. calyptratus calcarifer is much smaller. Geographical distribution includes Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

The extremities are shaped in a clip to facilitate climbing, which is also helped by the prehensile tail. Their eyes move independently making the monitoring of its surroundings for potential prey or predators very effective. They are excellent hunters and their tongue strikes with extreme accuracy.

C. calyptratus is a large species of chameleon - 50cm males and 35cm females. Males colour is a vivid green with some greenish, yellow or even blue spots and stripes. Females are not as vivid, generally showing more extreme patterns during gestation periods or when stressed. The crest is also much larger in males than in females. Males present tarsal spurs on their hind legs that differentiate them from females.

Chameleons can be very aggressive, both among themselves and with their owners. They may flatten themselves laterally and emit hissing noises, whilst swaying from side to side before biting. Although females may be kept together with enough space, they should be kept alone and no other chameleon should be within sight. This is extremely important for males that see other males as they shall show signs of aggressiveness and increase stress. Females that can see males may produce follicles and a pre-ovulatory follicular stasis may occur as early as 5 months of age.

MAINTENANCE IN CAPTIVITY

TERRARIUM

A vertical vivarium with good ventilation is recommended. There are mesh vivaria readily available by the larger reptile accessory suppliers or alternatively a mesh vivarium "DIY" style works well. Some breeders keep them on a live large plant (ie Ficus sp.) with water under and around the pot to keep them in. This is a good alternative also as they have access to the potted area underneath.

LIGHTING AND HEATING

Full spectrum lighting is needed, including the ultraviolet range (UVA and UVB). This may be achieved with a mercury vapour bulb to provide high levels of UV and also heat. Alternatively incandescent tube or a compact bulb may be used as the UV source and another incandescent bulb for the basking area.

A basking area in the high 30s is ideal, with an environmental temperature between 24-27ºC.

See lighting and heating pages for more information.

WATER
Clean water should always be provided and they do prefer to lap droplets from the sides of the vivarium or off plant leaves. A fine spray to increase relative humidity (RH) and to provide these droplets is recommended twice daily. Moving water does also seem to stimulate them. Retailers now provide rain systems or foggers and a simple dropper bag may also be used. Automated systems will be easier to achieve more exact and measured humidity.

FOOD

Chameleons are omnivores so they eat live food and also vegetable matter - although in captivity many will not take plant matter.

Different sized insects and young rodents may be offered, including crickets, mealworms, grasshoppers, moths, cockroaches, and mice depending on the size of the chameleon - ideally pieces should not be larger than 2/3 of the width of the head.

Feeding the live food vegetables is important (gut loading) to increase the nutritional value of the prey. This also integrates vitamins and minerals that a prey item would not contain, especially if bought from the shop and offered straight away.

Vegetables and fruits may also be offered as some will readily take them. Generally they shall consume around 30 insects per week and will take the first 4-5 eagerly and lose interest after these. Their weight should be watched as obesity is a common condition in captivity.

VITAMIN AND MINERAL SUPPLEMENTS

Exact daily intake of different minerals and vitamins has still yet to be established, therefore bear in mind that it is difficult to overdose with water-soluble vitamins and that fat-soluble (vitamins A, D, E and K) will accumulate in the body and may cause hypervitaminosis. A deficiency of any vitamin will lead us down the path of pathology as well (hypovitaminosis) . Each vitamin and mineral has its function and can not be underestimated at any time. The active form of vitamin D3 (1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol) is formed by the UVB source and exposure to the correct lighting should suffice but deficiencies still ocurr in captivity. Therefore a vitamin supplement is highly recommended, ideally one of the top brands ie "Bone Aid", "ReptoLife", "Reptivite", "Nutrobal". Ideally, choose one that has a proper ratio of vitamins A, D and E. We must always provide mineral supplements that contain an appropriate calcium/phosphorus ratio (minimum Ca/P = 2/1).

As a general rule of thumb these supplements may be used twice weekly but physiological status may require more than this ie female producing follicles or a juvenile. Another proposed protocol could be to use calcium/VitD3 daily on insects and a vitamin supplement without VitD3 twice weekly.

REPRODUCTION

These chameleons are easy to breed in captivity compared to other species that may be hard enough to survive in a captive environment.

Sexual maturity is reached between 5-8 months of age. It is not advised that the female is bred before reaching a year of age. The receptive female is recognized by the bright green colour with blue spots on the hull and back and if she shows a light green colour with ocher stripes then she is likely not prepared. If she shows a dark background and yellow spots in the presence of the male then she has likely been recently inseminated.

In the wild breeding will commence in September-October so that eggs hatch during the spring rains 6 months later. The male may hit the female with his head and bite her on the dorsum until they finally mate. Once mated the female generally increases her appetite in the coming days and shall start to increase in size.

About 10 days before she is due to lay food intake is reduced and gradually comes to a halt. Gestation lasts approximately 25-30 days at which point 20-70 eggs are laid. About 20 cm of soil or moist peat mixed with sand may be used as a nesting substrate. Digging may go on for days.

Eggs may be transferred straight in to an incubator and care must be taken not to rotate them. Incubation medium typically used is vermiculite at a 1/1 ratio with water. Incubation temperature should be between 25-30°C and neonates should hatch around 6 months later measuring approximately 6cm. Neonates may be fed fruit flies and microcrickets, ideally covered with a multivitamin powder. Humidity levels should be high.