Introducing My Transvaal Dwarf Chameleons (B. transvaalense)

A couple months ago a friend on the chameleon forums showed photos of his gorgeous male Bradypodion tranvaalense chameleon, or the Transvaal dwarf chameleon (although their common name changes depending on the region from where they came). He has a gorgeous black and white striped face, and deep yellow-orange markings down his sides. Everything about him was beautiful and different to me. Unbeknownst to me, this is a genus that is rare in the United States, and only a handful of individuals exist here. Fast forward a few weeks and about 10 of us signed up to have 23 chameleons from three different species of the genus Bradypodion imported from a breeder in Germany.

I teamed up with a friend of mine in Montana to do a breeding project together. I got one male while she got one male and two females. One of her females is on loan to me for now, while we determine which strategy will work best when breeding. At first I was going to ship my male to her when they were all old enough, so the presence of another male will stimulate breeding, and then he and one female would come back to me so that I could care for half the offspring, We then decided that it may be more prudent to have one pair with me in Florida and another with her in Montana, in case one of our climates turns out to be less than optimal. That way one pair may still go on to breed.

So, without much ado, here are my tiny little two.
I will update this thread as the week goes on with better photos of them, I didn't want to bother them too much today.
The female peeking out of the shipping bag. 
The female out of the bag, going off to explore the cage. 
The little male, in full shed coming out of the bag. You can see the female in the background.
One of the two cages. This one belongs to the male. 
Raising and breeding these little chameleons will be a lot of trial an error, starting with the information that European breeders as well as a select few American breeders are providing, and seeing how we apply it to our very different climates. As time goes on I will make blogs logging the notes and observations I have recorded about them, to share with others keeping this species so that we may learn from each other and get ideas.

This should be very interesting and very exciting for us! Wish us luck.

June 4, 2012 - Here are the new photos of them after giving them a few days to settle in.

The male, Azrael.
The male, Azrael. 
The male, Azrael, outside. 

The male. 
The female, still nameless. 
The female. 

Panther Chameleon Art Prints For Sale

I am offering prints for sale of the following panther chameleon digital drawings, done entirely in Photoshop 7 with a Wacom digital pen and tablet. Both are portraits of existing panther chameleons owned by breeders that were kind enough to let me draw their males. 

Sizing and Pricing is as follows:
8.5" x 11" - $15.00
11" x 17" - $25.00
22" x 34" - $55.00

Shipping & Tube - $5.00 

The printing company I am using is excellent and can do any number of other sizes, from enormous posters to 3" x 5" prints. If you would like a different size please contact me and I will check with the company and confirm a price. I only picked the ones that seemed most typical. 

The watermarks will not be included in the print you purchase!

If interested, please email me at
I accept payments through Paypal, preferably. 

Fierce the Ambilobe Panther Chameleon

Ziggy the Nosy Faly Panther Chameleon

Photos - Chameleons in Bougainvilleas

My bougainvillea flowers were really in bloom this week so I brought everyone outside for some sunshine, especially since I'd been gone on vacation for a week and they hadn't seen the outside world in that time.

First are my panthers, Azura (female) followed by Daedalus (male).

Now the Carpets. First Cassio (male) and then Desdemona (female).

On the Specific Care of Females

Whether you would like a female chameleon as part of a breeding project, as a pet, or both, how you take care of them will vary a little from how you would care for a male. This is because females vary from males in their size, lifespan, and ability to lay eggs that alter how we need to meet their needs. I outlined a few of these differences in my previous blog ( Comparing Males and Females) but will go over their more specific care (especially as it relates to egg-laying) here. 

Many new keepers are often shocked to discover that females will lay eggs regardless of being mated. Surprise! Like chickens, female chameleons of egg-laying, or oviparous, species will start producing clutches of infertile eggs regularly throughout their lives, whether or not there is a male in the picture. Usually this is accompanied by panic, worry, and fear because there is just so much hysteria online around something known as egg-binding, a condition in which a female is unable to lay the eggs by herself. As you can imagine this is a serious medical condition that requires veterinary intervention.

The good news is that the online hype is mostly that, just hype. Of course sometimes things out of our control happen and the female experiences issues, as with human birth, it’s not always a smooth thing. But by and large chameleon females know what they are doing better than we do, and as long as they are healthy and have a suitable place to lay there should be nothing to panic about regarding egg-laying. 

Comparing Males and Females

The wise often advise to start keeping chameleons with males, and this is typically sound advice. This is because it is more prudent for an individual with no chameleon experience to begin with a male, who is not capable of laying clutches of eggs with or without contact with a male, and the health issues related with egg-laying. By raising a male chameleon first, adjusting how husbandry is handled for a female will be easier.

A receptive panther female, wearing a bright peach color.
However, new keepers come in varying degrees of confidence so while the care of a female may scare one person, another may feel very capable of starting with a female. With enough research I think anyone can be very capable of starting with whichever they choose. Below I will outline the main differences between the sexes, using the common panther chameleon (F. pardalis) as an example.

However, in summary, either a male or female will make a beautiful, interesting, and fulfilling pet for anyone dedicated enough to keep these reptiles. Whichever you get depends on which gender meets your preferences better.

To learn how to sex panther chameleons, read 

An Ambilobe panther chameleon at 5 months old.
The SAME Ambilobe just 6 months later. Big difference!
A very important factor for people looking to get a pet chameleon is, of course, their color. Panther chameleons are a popular choice for most people because they come in such an array of bright, rich, beautiful colors that you just can't find in any other lizard. They can be a solid, deep royal blue, bright scarlet with blue bars, or banana yellow with red bars, just as a few examples. However, these amazing colors take a while to bloom in a panther chameleon, taking up to 6-7 months or more for any colors besides brown or beige to show. And since most babies look just as bland at the time they are sold to new homes (between 2-3 months), sometimes individuals who do not know how to sex a chameleon will wait patiently for months and months and be surprised when their animal doesn't really ever get colors. And only then do they realize that only males will get these beautiful colors! This is why male chameleons are typically worth more than females. And then pet stores, for example, conveniently do not tell people this or sell all babies as male for more and it's only 5-6 months later that unhappy customers realized that they will not be getting a bright blue chameleon.

 However, females are not drab and ugly (at least not to everyone.) Females are not as flashy as males, this is true, but they can show very pretty pastel shades of pink or peach with varying degrees of rusty orange, purple, blue, or green. When receptive to mating they will get a solid, very vibrant pink-peach color, and when they are gravid with a clutch they will get an intense orange with black bars. So they are not ugly, but they simply show a different palette of colors. I almost think of them like mood stones, that change dramatically depending on where they are in their reproductive cycle, which is fun as a pet owner. I will have photos throughout this blog showing panthers of different types, so the differences in color between males and females will become very apparent. 

Female panther chameleon, in
receptive peach colors. 
Male panthers will also be much bigger than a female, often twice her size. So while males require a minimum cage size of 48"H x 24"W x 24"D, the minimum cage size for a female is a bit smaller, with 36"H being the usual. I think my female is more active than my male and so they both get cages just as big, but for someone who may not have a large space to dedicate to a huge cage, a female may allow them to have a slightly smaller cage. My female is a dainty size, where she's not too tiny to hold but she does not hurt me with her nails like the males do when they're twice as big and 2+ times as heavy.

This is another big factor that people consider when looking to get a pet. There are rumors that say that female chameleons are more docile, and therefore make more friendly pets. This may be true to an extent, but it is not a rule. Since females do not have to defend a territory and fight off males, they may not be as defensive and loaded with angry testosterone like males are. But since personality is unique to every individual, you can still get very aggressive females. I've been lucky that mine is very sweet, just like my current male, but I have friends that have very angry females that they cannot hold without being bitten. So I cannot guess what the personality of any given chameleon will be like.

I have a separate blog in which I outlined how I deal with my chameleons in hopes of making them friendly. This may not work for all chameleons, but it cannot hurt if done with patience:

A gravid female panther. Notice bight orange
and black coloration. 

Only females lay eggs and this is the trickiest part of owning a female. Females are capable of laying eggs periodically without the presence of a male, and will lay these infertile clutches from as young as 6 months old and will continue to do so throughout their lives every few months. Because things can go wrong, this usually makes new keepers nervous. However, by providing a female with a suitable place to lay eggs many of these issues will be automatically avoided. Most people that lose their females to issues like egg-binding (a condition where the eggs fuse together and can no longer pass through the female) because they did not provide an adequate container of moist sand or soil to lay in, so the female just held in the eggs until they were too big to pass. Additionally, by keeping females slightly cooler (80-82°F) than males and by keeping them on a strict diet their metabolisms will slow to where they can either not lay clutches at all or lay significantly fewer eggs in each clutch. Both of which will help females live longer lives.

A 1.5 year old male Nosy Be panther chameleon
Because of the toll egg-laying takes on a female, females tend to live about half as long as males. This is an average of 2-3 years, where male panthers can live an average of 4-5, with some known to make it to 8. If husbandry is adjusted to help females lay fewer eggs throughout their lives females have also been known to live between 5-7 years. So unless you want to use them only for breeding, adhering to these techniques can add quite a bit of time to their lives.

*Note: Here is an additional blog that goes into the specific care of females that can help them not lay clutches or lay fewer eggs per clutch. This includes adhering to a strict diet and lowering her basking temperature to slow down her metabolism and reproductive cycle: On The Specific Care of Females

Below are additional photos of a single panther female showing the wide variety of colors and patterns she shows depending on her mood, followed by a few more male panthers.

Here she is in a very teal mood, neither receptive nor gravid. The teal is much more vibrant in person. 

Here she is in a different, non-receptive mood. For a week she had hundreds of purple dots all over, with a pink base.
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