I currently keep two chameleons at home, a veiled chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus) named Pascal and a panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) named Vai. Both are housed separately in their own vivariums.
The Veiled Chameleon originates from the Arabian Peninsula of Yemen and Saudi Arabia, (hence they are often also called Yemen chameleons). The panther chameleon originates from various parts of Madagascar.
Both of these species are commonly available in reptile-specific retailers in the UK.
So what makes them so good?
Whilst a chameleon may not always be thought of as a first-time reptile pet, if you are willing to do the research, ask the questions (question the answers!), get support and buy the right equipment, there is no reason why a chameleon couldn’t be the ideal choice for you.
They are fascinating reptiles to observe and often they may become tame, and even be handled once settled in. But if you are looking for a pet you can get out and cuddle with, then you will need to look elsewhere! Don’t let this put you off though, once settled into their new home, more often than not, they are great pets. I always provide the option for my chameleons to come out on me by offering my hand or arm for a minute or two. If no interest is shown, I just allow them to carry on doing what they are doing and try again another day.Â Most of the time, it’s just patience and perseverance that’s needed to gain the trust.
I also find the research needed for their upkeep a highly interesting part of keeping them, and I’d always recommend you know as much as you can before you decide on what you want. From knowing about the natural origin, the environment, the eating habits. What food is available for you to purchase here in the UK, and what is the specialist equipment needed for the upkeep? Both the veiled chameleon setup and the panther chameleon setup are easy to put together.
Remember, NO question is a stupid question when a little life is in your hands. There are many experienced keepers willing to help. But also many just starting out. We are all there for the same reason. We love our Chameleons.
There is nothing better than getting a Chameleon from a young (or a rescue), and then watching it grow and flourish in the artificial environment you have created for it. Watching it feed (the famous shooting of the tongue) is one of the most amazing things to watch. Getting to know its moods and traits (the famous colour changing). And just observing its daily routines. It’s all highly rewarding.
But, as they are exotic pets, specialist equipment is needed that is specific to that species. All this comes at a cost. I’m a firm believer in getting the best equipment available as I want the best possible life for my chameleons. I won’t buy the cheaper brands. You will come to learn via research, in the world of reptile keeping, there are a few brands that are a little more expensive, it’s because they are the best at what they do!
So, talk to the specialist reptile centres (like Northampton Reptile Centre) as well as groups about what the best equipment available is. Someone will show you, and discuss with you what is needed!