Species group: Chameleons
Other common names: Three-horned Chameleon; Mt. Meru Dwarf Jackson’s Chameleon
Scientific name: Trioceros jacksonii
The Jackson’s Chameleon is a good choice for folks who have experience with other chameleons or delicate insectivorous lizards. While not a pet for the novice, the Jackson’s Chameleon can be fairly hardy if its very specific husbandry needs are met.
The 3 Jackson’s Chameleon subspecies are found East Africa’s central Kenyan highlands, the eastern slope of Mt. Kenya, and Mt. Meru in Tanzania. Highly arboreal, they inhabit humid montane forests and cut-over woodlands. Feral populations are established in Hawaii, Florida, and California, USA, where they have colonized forests, orchards and gardens.
Appearance / health:
The Jackson’s Chameleon subspecies most commonly seen in the pet trade (T. j. xantholophus) reaches 15 - 38 cm (6-15 in) in length. The other 2 subspecies top out at 10 - 12.7 cm (4-5 in). Jackson’s Chameleons are generally green, but can change to and flash a wide array of colors. Males sport 3 long, pointed brown horns on their heads.
Stress-related ailments are common health concerns. Dehydration may occur if a supply of dripping water is not provided, and metabolic bone disease is typical of animals that are not provided with ample calcium and/or UVB exposure.
Behavior / temperament:
Jackson’s Chameleons rarely take well to handling, but will give you much of interest to observe if properly cared-for.
Shy and arboreal, Jackson’s Chameleons should be kept in custom-made screen cages that are vertically oriented and well-stocked with vines, cork bark rolls and sturdy plants. A single adult requires an enclosure at least 1.2 x 1 x 1.2 meters (4 x 3 x 4 ft, l x w x h) in size. Glass terrariums do not supply the air circulation essential to good health.
Jackson’s Chameleons need daily UVB exposure. A temperature gradient of 74-80 F and a basking temperature of 85 F, with a dip to 60-64 F at night, should be established. Humidity should be kept at 50-85%.
A highly-varied captive diet is essential. Jackson’s Chameleons should be offered roaches, crickets, butterworms, locusts, snails, lab-reared house flies, hornworms, and other commercially-available species. Insects should themselves be fed a nutritious diet. Most meals should be powdered with a Calcium supplement; a chameleon-specific vitamin/mineral powder should be used 2-3 times weekly.
Chameleons will not drink water from a bowl, but will lap drops from foliage. A perforated container on the cage top that allows water to drip over plants should be available, as sprayed water may not meet your pet’s needs.
Females give birth to 6-32 live young. They can store sperm, and may reproduce several times each year.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
absolutely incredible color, supercool lizard, aesthetically appealing creatures, tongues
handling, hard work, fragile creatures, bugs, humidity, distinct odor, big enclosures
independent eyes, Adult supervision
The Jackson One (and only)
I was out in the coffee fields one day when I spotted Jackson in one of the trees. I brought him home to surprise the kids and husband, naturally! We were very excited to have acquired this new and intriguing pet!
Without having done any research on these reptiles (as I had randomly discovered him) I immediately began passing him around for the kids to handle. Errrrr- wrong! I began my research that night and was shocked to learn that not only do chameleons basically loathe being held and exhibit some physiological concerns from over-handling, they also have a rather nasty bite!
Going down the list, the next issue was the enclosure. Luckily, we had a hutch on stilts that was just perfect for housing him. Chameleons require a vast amount of space. Getting him all set up in his new home was a learning experience. We probably have it easier than most because of the year round warmth here in Hawaii, so we were able to keep his hutch in the yard. Chameleons have daylight requirements! I hadn't a clue! They will literally sicken and die if the requirements aren't me. In addition, I learned that they do not drink standing water. There is something quite mysterious about the way they hydrate themselves. Jacksons must be spritzed. They must have a home with branches and plants to crawl on, and the plants must be sprayed to provide water absorption routes as well.
Though we have yet to see any evidence of distress in our Jackson, these guys are said to be very hard to maintain, and easily distressed to the point of death if care is not followed to a T.
As a novelty, Jackson is exceptional. But in all practicality he is not a lizard I would have any desire to try again. I feed and water him and we live our separate lives. I'm not particular sure of the reasons behind owning a pet like this. In truth, I am already considering rehoming him because it just doesn't seem worth the effort..
From Anniecalkins May 24 2015 3:25AM
Sensitive and tricky to keep, but rewarding
Like many chameleons, Jackson's are sensitive and prone to stress, and these are a little more challenging than the Veiled or Panther chameleons - so should be kept by a more experienced reptile keeper.
They do look amazing and it's easy to see why people would want them in a display - I've attached a picture of one of the juvenile males I work with - stunning colours, with a prehistoric set of horns. None of the ones I've worked with have been happy to be handled unfortunately - very much a hands-off display animal. They're not aggressive, but do get stressed.
The enclosure with this species is absolutely critical, they have to have a high air flow because they're prone to respiratory infections. You can use a mesh enclosure, but this comes with it's own set of challenges, like how to adequately keep it at a stable temperature and humidity.
As you can probably tell, this requires quite a bit of research, knowledge, finances and patience even before getting the lizard. I'd also strongly recommend getting one captive bred, as wild caught specimens tend to be much less hardy than their captive bred counterparts, possibly because of the amount of stress they feel. I'm happy with them because I feel I can provide an adequate enclosure - I wouldn't recommend them as a "pet", but would recommend them to an experienced reptile keeper..
From Athravan Jun 18 2015 4:34PM
Not easy to provide for AT ALL
First off, stress is a major issue for these guys. They can get stressed by overhandling, too much humidity, not enough humidity, not enough airflow (very hard to get airflow and humidity together), and temperature issues. If they get stressed they don't eat and then they quickly lose weight. They are virtually impossible to force feed and throw up anything they don't want to have eaten in the first place. I don't recommend these guys unless you have an automated cage system that maintains correct specifications at all times..
From DennisNJ May 20 2015 10:26PM