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Panther Chameleons, Care Sheet

Panther Chameleons, Care Sheet

Article by Petr Necas & Bill Strand (Download the Quick Guide as a PDF)












Furcifer pardalis

Common Names

Panther Chameleon (English) Sakorikita (Malagassy)

Original name

Chamaeleo pardalis


Cuvier, 1829

Original description

Règne, animal, 2nd ed., 2: 60

Type locality

Ile de France (= Mauritius, erroneous), restricted to Madagascar


HNP 6520







A formally monotypic species with no recognized subspecies, however, recent studies reveal many (4 big, up to 11) entities within this species, defined geographically, that show a different level of relativeness, some so distant from each other to be possibly considered a separate species and/or subspecies.

Historically, many synonyms were introduced, such as Chamaeleo ater, niger, guentheri, longicauda, axillaris, krempfi.

The term “locale” is used in captive management only; it has no taxonomic relevance and refers to the distinct subpopulations named usually after a village within its (often not isolated and well defined) range, differing from each other through unique colouration and patterns, mainly males. The distinguished “locales” are as follows: Ambanja, Ambilobe, Ampitabe, Androngombe, Ankaramy, Ankarana (E and W), Andapa, Anki- fy, Antalaha, Antsiranana (Diego Suarez), Beramanja, Cap Est, Djangoa, Fenoarivo, Mahavelona, Mangaoka, Manambato, Mananara, Maroantsetra, Marojejy, Nosy Be, Nosy Boraha, Nosy Faly, Nosy Mangabe, Nosy Mitsio, Sambava, Sambirano, Soanier- ana Ivongo, Toamasina (Tamatave), Vohimana. Captive projects include often deliberate crossbreeding of “locales” that lead to genetically unidentifiable animals and should be omitted.

Member of the genus Furcifer.







Life Space



Distributed along NE, N, NW and E coast of Madagascar, south reaching the vicinity of Tamatave, including many offshore islands (e.g. Nosy Be, Nosy Boraha, Nosy Faly, Nosy Mangabe, Nosy Mitsio…).

Introduced in Madagascar at Andasibe, long ago in Reunion and Mauritius (populations might be even originating from drifted single specimens, not man-induced) and recently in the USA (Florida).


0 – 950m a.s.l., typically in lowland coastal areas


Tropical dry forests and agricultural land incl. heavily disturbed habitats


Trees and shrubs, living fences, agricultural plants.

Perching Height

0–10m above ground (babies in grass and low bushes, semi-adults in bushes, adults in trees and bushes). In forests (rarely) in the canopies of trees


Daily Activity

A whole day in the shade of big trees,

Morning and late afternoon 1-2 hour basking on a sun-exposed branch, Sleeping within bushes and canopies of trees,

In case of rain hiding in the middle of bushes or in tree canopies close to stems


IUCN Status

Not specifically protected. Exported from Madagascar yearly in hundreds to thousands of specimens without visible impact on native populations; protected through difficult accessibility or restricted traffic on remote areas and islands.



Living in many protected areas, including Réserve Naturelle Intégrale de Lokobe, Réserve Spéciale de Manongarivo, Réserve Spéciale d’Ambatovaky, Parc National de Marojejy, Réserve Spéciale de Nosy Mangabe, Parc National de Zahamena and Parc National de Sahamalaza.









Climate Type

Tropical humid climate

Dry seasons

November to April

Rainy seasons

May to October



The climate of the inhabited region is relatively stable throughout the year

29-32°C (84-90°F) at daytime (5-7 degrees less in shade), at night 18-23°C (64-73°F) Day: 84-90°F (29-32°C) with 72-81°F (22-27°C) in the shade

Night: 64-73°F (18-23°C)


Up to 100 % at night all year long, below 60% at daytime





Life Cycle


Oviparous – egg-laying

Gestation period

Approx. 1 month (3 to 6 weeks), depending on the temperatures and size

Egg Laying Site

Egg deposition sites are situated on the ground, often on sun-exposed places or in shade, typically in sandy soil

Eggs are deposited at the end of a shallow (10-12cm deep) tunnel.

Clutch size

In the wild: 10-46

Captive females lay repeatedly eggs even without fertilization

Incubation Period

6-12 months depending on temperatures (the warmer the shorter)

Hatching Period

August to December, but hatchlings can appear any time of the year, as the females can

lay several clutches throughout the year

Size at hatching

Approx. 7cm (0.51g), depending on incubation

Maturity reached

At 6 months

Maximum size reached

At 14-18 months (up to 21in)

Mating period

January – May, some populations in the NW breed throughout the year


In the wild: 3 years

In captivity: females 2-3 (max 5) years, males 4-5 years (max 8)









One of the largest chameleon species equipped with all typical chameleon features like zygodactylous feet, prehensile tail, independently moving eyes in lid turrets, long prehensile tail, skin capable of colour change, the head with low casque, rough crests consisting of enlarged warty or pointed scales form a bifurcated false horn in males.


Males usually 16-18in (up to 21in), females significantly smaller


Sexual dimorphism

Males possess higher casques, higher and more pronounced crests and rostral horn Excited males show very variable colours and patterns depending on the place of origin, females are usually uniformly brown with a weak pattern.

Males have a swollen tail base





Diet size

Invertebrates, usually under half-inch size, never over an inch size


Main diet

Hymenopterans (bees and wasps) Dipterans (flies)

Lepidopterans (butterflies, moths and their caterpillars) Coleopterans (small beetles)

Orthopterans (locusts, grasshoppers, mantis)

Omitted widely available diet items

Black beetles

Special/occasional diet items

Snails and small vertebrates like small birds and geckos

Additionally digested items

Pollen Dust











Health issues


Internal parasites

Roundworms Tapeworms Flukes

Treatment: Consult a veterinarian


RI (Respiratory infection)

Symptoms: heavy breathing, visible ribs, gaping, sitting with head up, bubbles in the throat

Cause: arise often in captivity as a result of too high humidity at daytime combined with high temperatures

Treatment: Antibiotics to be prescribed by a veterinarian

Mouth rot (Stomatitis; Gingivitis ulcerosa)

Symptoms: white cheese-like deposits along the jaws, swollen jaws

Cause: arise often in captivity as a result of injuries of jaws and mucous in combination with husbandry issues

Treatment: Antibiotics to be prescribed by a veterinarian


MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease

Symptoms: casque and head deformities, rubber jaw, broken bones of extremities, fractures of ribs

Cause: A captive condition resulting from an imbalance of vitamin D3 supplementation, lack of Calcium + magnesium in food and/or insufficient UVB exposure

Treatment: proper diet and UVB exposure. In heavy cases – veterinarian



Symptoms: Heavy body, inactivity, swollen cheeks and casques, puffy extremities Behavior: Picky eating, slower-moving, puffy belly resting on or overflowing branch Cause: Overfeeding

Treatment: reduce diet


Dystocia (Egg retention)

Symptoms: Inability to lay eggs

Cause: arise often in captivity as a result of overfeeding or inadequate care Treatment: Oxytocine and supportive measures administered by a vet, often necessary to solve surgically including sterilization (that can lead to masculinization of the female’s appearance)


Eye infections

Symptoms: Swollen turrets or their parts, closed eyes, eye-opening blocked by transparent or milky pus

Cause: Under/overdose of vitamins or physical trauma

Treatment: Antibiotics to be prescribed by a veterinarian














Caging type


Cohabiting of adults not recommended

Cohabiting of young juveniles up to 3 months of age possible in densely planted cages with close observation

If kept individually, placement cages in a distance of more than 3m from each other

with sight contact possible, recommended


Cage conditions

Day Temperatures: 77-81°F (25-27°C) with basking spot up to 86°F/ 30°C, Night Temperatures: under 60-70° (15-22°C)

Humidity levels: nighttime up to 100% towards morning, daytime under 60%

UVI: 5-7 at the basking spot

Cage size

Female: 18 x 18 x 36in / Min 16x16x30 Male: 24 x 24 x 48in / Min (18x18x34) The larger the better for both sexes

Cage type

Full-screen cage or Glass terrariums with ventilation


Cage interior

Dense foliage from live plants with an extensive network of thin natural branches Freely exposed horizontal branch for basking in a safe distance (head and body length from the heat source)

Bottom with no special requirements can be from bare to bioactive



Light bulb white light = 12 hours per day

Heat bulb white light (not red) = according to surrounding temperatures Linear UVB bulb = 12 hours per day / Coiled UVB Bulb for small terrariums Nighttime: No heat/light source – including blue and red bulbs!




Water management

Fog (ultra-sonic humidifier) at night (from 1 AM till dawn)

Morning Mister: Short misting session (2 minutes) 30 minutes before lights go ON; Purpose is to create a layer of dew on leaves for the chameleon to find when it wakes up. Afternoon Rain Shower: During the rainy season simulate a rain shower by switching off heat lamps for 30 minutes and then run the mister a couple of minutes; Do not bring the heat lamp back on for 30 minutes after a shower is over.

Evening Misting: Wait until all lights are off and the chameleon has settled in. Run mister for two minutes to raise humidity.

Dripper: best in the morning hours

Use cool or ambient temperature water. Do NOT heat or warm water. Do NOT “bathe” or “soak” your chameleon.

Provide dense plant cover so chameleon can choose to get in or out of misting action. 






Feeding in captivity




General rule: as variable as possible

Overfeeding risk: Usually not an issue, but possible. Consult “Obesity” in the health section for symptoms.

Food items size: preferable smaller size under 1/2 inch

To feed: flies, crickets, roaches, super worms, hornworms, fly larvae, wax worms and wax moths, silkworms and silk moths

Food to consider: wild bees


Each meal: Pollen & Calcium without D3

Bi-Weekly: Multivitamin mix &(Indoor only) Calcium with D3


Hydration is to be facilitated by a combination of night fogging, morning and evening misting and daytime dripping.

Urates to be assessed and in case of deviations, hydration methods to be adjusted






Reproduction in Captivity

Egg deposition

The female digs a tunnel and lays eggs at the end. The tunnel is covered with the substrate.



Artificial: a large container filled with 20-25 cm deep moist (not wet) sterilized substrate (sand, sand with soil, coconut soil etc.)

Semi-naturalistic: Fill a gallon glass jar with 10 cm of the substrate (best is fine sand)

Naturalistic: include live potted plants to be the laying opportunities for the females


Way of incubation

Artificial: eggs transferred to containers with the special substrate (see below), filled in

2-4cm layer, eggs are positioned separately from each other in shallow holes so that 1/3 to 1/2 of the egg is above its surface

Semi-naturalistic: eggs left in a potted plant pot, water is added if necessary

Naturalistic: eggs left in a potted plant pot, the plant is watered as usual.

Incubation substrate

Artificial: Vermiculite, Perlite

Semi-natural: sterilized sand, soil, coconut soil Natural: soil in the plant pot

Incubation temperatures

Artificial: Eggs hatch if incubated at constant as well as variable temperatures ranging from 20 to 30°C, safest range from 23 to 25°C

Semi-naturalistic: keep the eggs at room temperatures

Naturalistic: temperatures oscillating daily by 3-4°C

Incubation time

5-12 months. Lower the temperature = longer incubation


Raising the young

Depending on size, up to 5 months young can be kept together, then need to be separated and raised individually. Monitor any aggressive behaviour.

Food size should not exceed the length of the head

Food amount should not be limited: feed ad libitum

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Dear Friends,
As I mentioned over the weekend, we are ready for our next shipment. However, I have decided to move the date to April.
The reason: The shipment has to do a stop before coming to Canada; the place where it transfers has an embargo right now due to cold weather. So they are moving our date to mid-February. As you know, this has been a colder than usual winter for us; the temperatures for mid-February in Canada will be way below zero. So I’m not willing to take any risk. I know we are all excited and anxious, but we have to be mindful of what’s best and play it safe.
It will happen in April at the latest rain or shine, guaranteed. But, of course, as soon as the weather shows some mercy and we have temperatures above zero, we’ll move ahead, so we could be getting it in March if the temperatures are proper.
Even if we got them next week as planned, I wouldn’t be able to ship to most of you due to the low temps in your provinces.
Thank you for your support and understanding. I’m sure most of you will agree with me on my decision, and as always, it will be worth it.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me on FB chat, email or over the phone.