No Place Like Home | Creating Your Chameleon Habitat Part 1

chameleon-855125Before you bring your chameleon home, you must create a habitat suitable to its needs. While it may be tempting just to buy the first option you see, examining your options more carefully can produce better results. In this installment, we will cover information about the main types of enclosures that are available, and which may match your situation best.

Key Features for All Habitats

Certain features are ideal for any chameleon habitat. First, chameleons are arboreal and enjoy being able to get up higher. That means your enclosure will often be taller than it is wide. Additionally, you want to make sure the base of the enclosure is not actually on the ground. Your enclosure either needs to come with suitable legs or have the ability to be placed on a table or counter.

Drainage is also a concern as well as easy of cleaning. You want excess moisture to be able to quickly exit the living space, as well as any waste created by your chameleon. Even if you keep live plants in the habitat, drainage is always a concern.

Screened Cages

Screened cages are one of the standard options on the market. These enclosures have a frame, typically made of wood, metal, or plastic, and the frame supports the screens that prevent your chameleon from making a break for it.

The screens feature a relatively tight weave for multiple reasons. First, it prevents your chameleon from being able to reach through the screen. Even though many people would assume the design would only need to stop the chameleon from squeezing through, it is better to make sure that they can’t even stick a toe through the material. Aside from the risk of injury (should the chameleon get a toe stuck), it is also less likely to be damaged from your chameleon using it as a climbing surface.

mesh-443975Finer mesh also limits the ability of live food, such as crickets, from being able to escape the enclosure. Not only will this help keep the food in reach of your chameleon, but it also keeps in out of your home!

If you live in a hot, humid environment, screened cages make an excellent choice. First, they provide superior ventilation. This helps keep the enclosure from getting stuffy or musty as air can flow freely through the space. It also prevents the enclosure from becoming too hot based on heat retention from the material itself.

Terrariums and Vivariums

There are glass and acrylic terrarium or vivarium options that are suitable for chameleons as well. Often, these have solid sides made of glass or acrylic, a solid base, and a mesh or screened top. These options are also commonly available, though take care not to accidentally end up with a unit meant to be used as an aquarium as they may not come properly equipped and may not feature ideal dimensions.

These forms of enclosures can be ideal if your home is in a cold or dry environment. Glass and acrylic enclosures hold heat and humidity more effectively than screened cages. This allows you to create a more tropical environment without affecting your overall home environment as dramatically.

However, since temperatures and humidity can get quite high, and ventilation is more difficult with these enclosures (as it is commonly limited to the top only) you will need to pay particular attention to environmental readings.

Hybrid Enclosures

There are combination enclosures that feature a mix of glass or acrylic panels and screened sections. For example, the front of the habitat may be made of glass or acrylic, and the side may be half glass or acrylic and half screen. Some may even feature glass or acrylic panels that can be slide up or down to expose screened sections.

Hybrid solutions may be ideal if your weather varies drastically throughout the year. You can control ambient temperature and humidity more efficiently by adjusting the amount of ventilation based on current conditions.

Coming Soon!

This is part 1 in a multipart series focused on creating an ideal environment for your chameleon. Come back for additional advice to help you build your chameleon’s perfect home.


Save the Pondo Dwarf Chameleon | A Look at Project Pondo

Herpetological Conservation International (HCI) is on a mission; a mission to save the endangered Pondo Dwarf Chameleon. This species is at risk due to its limited range. As the available habitat continues to shrink due to development in the Wild Cost region of South Africa’s Eastern Cape, HCI is looking to purchase available land that has been identified as the home of this wonderful chameleon species.

The goal is to maintain an environment that would protect the Pondo Dwarf Chameleon from extinction, and may be the first attempt to create a reserve specifically to save a chameleon.

Pondo Dwarf Chameleon Current Habitat

The Pondo Dwarf Chameleon is limited to a very specific area near Port St Johns, South Africa. The land is currently unprotected, leaving it open to development or use for agricultural purposes, a common threat due to increased urbanization in the area.

The area being sought for purchase is part of the Wild Cost, a section in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa. The environment is known as “Afrotropical,” referring to the unique coastal forest properties. Currently, the eco-region is considered endangered by both the IUCN and WWF.

The Goals of Project Pondo

HCI intends to purchase available land that is known to be inhabited by the Pondo Dwarf Chameleon. This allows the land to be set aside, creating a safe reserve for these wonderful creatures to thrive. Surveys have been completed to ensure that the targeted properties are currently inhabited by the chameleon, ensuring each purchase provides a benefit to the species.

As land is secured, the hope is to partner with local researches to perform various ecological studies. These studies would allow participants to be better informed regarding the species needs, and will aid in any habitat restoration attempts.

Other Benefiting Species

The region is also host to a number of other endangered animal species. The species would also benefit from the purchase and preservation of the land:

  • Giant Golden Mole
  • Samango Monkey
  • Spotted Ground Thrush
  • Cape Parrot
  • Pondoland Cannibal Snail
  • Pondo Flat-Necked Shieldback
  • Transkei Shieldback
  • Castleton’s Flightless Katydid

The reserve would also help the endangered Pondo Weeping Thorn.

Financial Goals

To complete this ambitious mission, HCI is looking to raise the required project budget of $50,000. HCI is a registered 501c(3) public charity. All donations made to the cause re tax deductible per federal law.

Would You Like to Help Save the Pondo Dwarf Chameleon?

If you would like to help Project Pondo reach their goal, see their Member Plant campaign page.

More information can also be found on the HCI website, as well as the HCI Facebook page.

Winter is Coming | Chameleon Emergency Planning

Winter weather brings a variety of challenges. At times, severe weather can make it impossible to leave home, or get back. It can also result in power outages, loss of temperature control mechanism, and limited availability of water. While many of us have heard how to prepare for disasters ourselves, the discussion doesn’t always include the care of our pets. Before winter weather causes a problem, you need to develop a Chameleon Emergency Plan. Here’s how to start.

Emergency Contact

A critical part of any disaster plan is identifying an emergency contact. In this case, you need to find someone who can get to your home and check on your chameleon if you are unable to get there yourself. Ideally, you need to find someone who lives or works in your local area, and close to your home.

Once you have found a suitable contact, you will review all other planning information with them as well. Refer to your emergency care plan and make sure they understand the information. Take time to show them the location of important items, like food and heat pads, and give them a chance to ask questions if they have any.

Temperature Control

While a chameleon may have an acceptable range in regards to ambient temperature, a winter storm can result in a power outage. And, without power, certain heaters will not operate. With this in mind, it is important to have alternative heat sources available if a lack of heat could put the health of your chameleon at risk.

To provide heat during an emergency, you should collect heating options that activate without power. A variety of heating pads, such as those traditional bought for camping, may be suitable in an emergency. Additionally, an indoor-safe propane heat can also help. If you have a generator, consider dedicating some of its energy to keeping your chameleon warm. You can make the process more efficient by keeping your chameleon in a smaller area, as it will take less energy to heat the space.

Since heat of this nature is harder to control, take extra care and keep your chameleon under observation at all times. If the temperature shifts unfavorably, you may need to reach quickly to ensure your chameleon’s health and safety.

Food and Water

Food and water are some of the building blocks of life. Give the same care when planning for your chameleon’s needs as you would your own. Make sure you have a sealed bottle of drinking water available at all times. That way, if you lose the ability to access safe water, you have a supply just for your chameleon.

Keep a close eye on your cricket supply during times of the year when severe weather may make accessing your normal supplier more difficult. Don’t let your supply dwindle down too far in case you won’t be able to access more for a few days. Luckily, chameleons don’t require many crickets per day to stay healthy. Try to have at least a week’s supply during rougher months.

Any Other Care Needs? Handle Accordingly

If your chameleon has any special needs, make sure you plan to meet those as well. Keep contact information for your vet readily available, as well as a backup vet in case your preferred veterinarian’s office is affected by the weather too.

With thorough planning, you can make sure that both you and your chameleon are ready to weather any winter storms. Take the time to plan today for a more secure tomorrow.