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Male or Female? How to Sex a Veiled/Yemen Chameleon

This week I am elbow-deep in the Malagasy tropics, hopefully stopping now and then for a cold beer. So this week's blog post comes courtesy of Trevor Neufeld from Niagara Herpetoculture in Ontario, Canada. He has been breeding veiled/Yemen chameleons (C. calyptratus) for about 20 years, and specializes in producing amazing individuals, especially of the translucent variety.

His photos will illustrate how to sex veiled chameleons easily, even as babies. This will apply in over 90% of all cases; there is always the odd chameleon that is a female with large spurs or a male with little ones, but by and large this method is a great way to identify a chameleon as male or female before any of the adult coloration comes in.

As adults identification should be easy; the male sports an impressive casque, has bright vertical bands of color, and has the thick tail-base typical of male chameleons where they hide their hemipenes. Females should be overall smaller, with smaller casques, typically solid green with speckles of color instead of bands, and a narrow tail base. In addition to this, males will have what are known as spurs on the back of their hind feet; a little protuberance like the spur on a cowboy's heel. Something (most) females do not have. The spur is present at the moment of hatchling, so even a newly-minted baby chameleon should be sexable this way with good certainty.

Beautiful translucent male veiled. 
More male veiled chameleons.
Notice also the stark difference in overall shape and coloration between the males above and the females below. Even if we ignore the translucent spots of white or black, you can see that males sport heavy vertical bars of yellow or ocher color while females have much smaller spots. Once they hit sexual maturity females will gain spots in turquoise and mustard, which signal that she's ready to breed and produce eggs. If she is carrying eggs the background green color can go as dark as black, making the spots even more striking. 

Young, sexually-mature female.

Sexually mature female (gravid with eggs.)
Female veiled chameleons. 
A female veiled. See how narrow her tail base is by comparison.



How to Avoid (or Treat) Parasites in Chameleons

If you saw last week’s blog post you might be a slightly horrified right now. A little like when we watch Monsters Inside Me and vow to never eat anything even remotely containing pork in a sketchy south-east Asian rural food stand. Easy enough; don’t order Yam naem sot while driving through the backwoods of Thailand. The bad news, however, is that it’s not as straight-forward to avoid parasitic infections in our herps. How do we keep the same thing that happened to Fox the panther chameleon from happening to other reptiles in our homes?

Parasites are everywhere, unfortunately. If you’ve spent any time on reptile groups or forums then inevitably you’ve heard that feeding wild-caught bugs (like grasshoppers, crickets, mantids, etc. from outside) carry a high risk of infecting your pet with parasites. This is true. However, this does not, contrary to popular misconception, mean that if your pets only eat captive farmed insects like crickets and superworms, that they will never catch any parasites. A biologist I knew, Pete Bandre (owner of Incredible Pets in Melbourne, Florida for a good two decades), told me once about an informal study he did once. He wanted to see if any cricket suppliers had “cleaner” crickets than others, so he ordered a bulk box from all the top suppliers in the US. He had each supplier’s stock sampled and they all came back positive for things like pinwom and even coccidia. Yikes!

Ok, so if even our innocent pet store crickets are riddled with the potential for parasites, the only things we can do are mitigate risk, do preventive testing and treatment, and treat parasite loads as necessary. 

The Curious Case of a Chameleon Full of Worms

Caution: This post contains graphic necropsy photos.

Unfortunately, this week’s post is not a happy one but it’s a necessary one, nonetheless. I’ve never talked very much about parasites beyond just recommending routine fecal tests but I’m going to dedicate this post to talking about what it looks like when parasites take over and end up killing their host. Next week I’ll follow up and talk more about common parasites, how to manage them, and how to (hopefully) avoid this situation.

Not quite a month ago, on Tuesday, December 13th, I received a new little panther chameleon. To the best of anyone’s knowledge he was a captive-born from the previous July (making him 6-months-old), and in great shape. We had a very pleasant buying and shipping experience and I had no complaints about Fox, the Ambilobe panther chameleon. In the few weeks that followed he did very well; he would eat and drink normally and nothing in his behavior seemed out of order. He started warming up to his new home and you could start to see his little personality shining through. On a couple occasions I was able to take him outside for some Miami sunshine.


[Review] Rain Forest Habitats' Pro PVC Cages


Meet Mojito. Not the elixir of the gods minty beverage that helps me recover from a long workweek with girlfriends on balmy evenings in Miami, but Mojito my young Cuban knight anole (Anolis equestris.) Anyone that lives in South Florida will recognize this species as the largest of the anole species, which, a courtesy of Cuba as the name implies has made its home comfortably here in the neighborhoods and keys of the subtropical southernmost tip of the continental United States.


In lieu of catching one off the street (as my biologist friends would prefer it) I purchased Mojito as a captive born baby at the last Repticon Miami expo at just a few weeks of age, and since he was so tiny I simply housed him in a spare Exo Terra terrarium measuring 12” x 12” x 18”. After almost two months, however, Mojito was beginning to outgrow the little glass terrarium and I started to look for something more suitable for the next several months of his life.

When I discovered the RainForest Habitat enclosures by Sean I thought I had come across exactly what I needed; a company that hand-made screen, enclosed, and hybrid cages in all sorts of styles and sizes, and in three colors; black, light gray, and white. Fabricated out of PVC, the cages offer light-weight enclosures that make great alternative to glass terrariums. For someone like me that likes things in a group to match, they presented the ability to have a series of cages that all had the same uniform look but suited each species specifically. In Mojito’s case I purchased a hybrid cage – a white PVC cage with three closed sides and a screen door and top. It would be perfect for keeping in humidity and heat but with the screen door would still allow for plenty of air movement, so that the cage does not get too warm as my room temperatures here in Miami fluctuate throughout the day. 

A Quick Guide to Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)


It’s the ailment that scares nearly all reptile keepers the most. It worries us and sends us online to do hours of research on proper lights, hoods, and vitamin supplements. And we hear about it continuously in online groups or forums. MBD, MBD, MBD, over and over again. Unfortunately, it is one of the leading causes of unnecessary (and easily preventable) death in captive reptiles, and it hits young, growing animals particularly hard. What is it, how do we prevent it from happening to our pets, and how do we recognize if an animal has it?

What is MBD?

MBD is the acronym for Metabolic Bone Disease, which is a catch-all term for a condition in which (in summary) the body cannot metabolize calcium properly and in severe cases leads to the bones of the body becoming brittle and rubbery, and problems with muscles and the nervous system. If it sounds painful it’s because it is; untreated, chameleons and other reptiles with severe MBD will develop brittle bones that can break, bend out of shape, and cannot support their movements. Chameleons can develop tremors (hypocalcemic tetany), problems moving, lethargy, digestive issues, and eventually death.

The good news is that is is preventable, early all cases of MBD could have been easily avoided. It is like heartworm in dogs; extremely easy to prevent but serious once the infestation has set in. Thankfully, MBD is also treatable and although broken or misshaped bones may never heal and look completely normal, the bone density can be corrected and the body brought back into balance. 

How to Order a Chameleon Online

People are often off-put by the idea of ordering a chameleon online. The idea of ordering an animal online and having it shipped to your front door in a box like a pair of new shoes seems a little unsettling. Dangerous or unethical, even. However it's actually an incredibly popular way for people in the Herp world to buy and sell animals that they wouldn't otherwise have access to. And as long as the person doing the shipping takes all the necessary responsible steps for a safe ship and the buyer takes all the necessary steps to ensure a safe delivery, it's something that carries little risk of going wrong.

That said, even for a veteran like me it is still a nail-biting experience! Between the excitement of waiting for a new pet and the nerves of making sure it all goes right, I'll admit it can be a sleepless night. But it is also an extremely easy and normally smooth experience, and I'm going to show you how.

Keeping the Cuban Knight Anole

The last few weeks have featured a lot of little Mojito, my Cuban knight anole (Anolis equestris.) To be perfectly frank, when I attended the Miami Repticon at the University of Miami campus earlier this Fall I was not planning on coming home with anything alive besides feeder insects. But when I saw cups with baby lime-green anoles I stopped and admired them for a brief moment, and then meandered onward to buy some cork bark for the leachies. But then I circled back. How cute they are, I thought. And then kept going so I could buy the crickets and hornworms I needed for my pets. And then I looped back around a third time, and looked at them again over the shoulders of other show-goers.

You get the idea, I’m sure.  

Long story short, by the time I made it home that afternoon I had a new pet. 

Yes, Mojito may have been an impulse purchase (do as I say, not as I do, anyone?) but as an underrated species that could make a very rewarding pet, I decided that I would try my hand at raising one and use him as another ambassador for the blog. So this week’s post will feature him exclusively, and we’ll take a look at how easy it is to care for these beautiful large anoles when you already have some experience with chameleons.
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