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What is Jackson's Chameleon?

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  • Written By: J.M. Densing
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2016
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Jackson's chameleon, scientific name Chamaeleo jacksonii, is a small-to-medium-sized lizard that is normally bright green, but is able to change color. It's also sometimes called the three-horned chameleon because males usually have three horns protruding from the front of their head. These lizards are native to cooler parts of Africa and are commonly sold as pets in the U.S. and other countries. They are relatively easy to care for pets; they don't enjoy being handled too much, however, but can be very interesting to observe. They eat insects and other invertebrates and require a spacious enclosure with plenty of room to climb.

An adult Jackson's chameleon is typically measures about 9 to 13 inches (22.5 to 32.5 cm) including the tail, and males tend to be larger than females. The color of the skin is usually bright green, but it can change hue to blend in with its surroundings or in reaction to mood, temperature, or general health. Jackson's chameleon resembles a miniature triceratops dinosaur, with a similar body shape and a dorsal ridge with a jagged edge. The males develop three horns; one protrudes from the tip of the nose, while the other two emerge from the head above the eyes. Females seldom develop horns; they just have a small nub at the end of their nose.

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In the wild, Jackson's chameleon is found in the cooler, humid parts of Africa such as the mountains in Kenya. They are sold as pets in many countries around the world. They are fairly simple to take care of and don't require a lot of handling; many owners find them fascinating to observe. In addition to their color changing ability, they are able to catch prey with their long, sticky tongues at lightening speed and have unique eyes that are able to look in two different directions at the same time.

The preferred diet of Jackson's chameleon consists of insects and other invertebrates including crickets, cockroaches, mealworms, and waxworms. Feedings should occur every other day, and the insects should be dusted with powdered vitamin supplements before being fed to the chameleon. A fresh dish of water should be supplied daily, and water can be dripped on the plants in the habitat as well. The water is needed for both drinking and to maintain comfortable humidity levels so the chameleon is able to shed its skin.

The enclosure or habitat for the Jackson's chameleon needs to be fairly spacious, with plenty of width and height. It should also have plenty of ventilation. There should be a variety of natural or artificial plants and branches available for it to climb on, and the ground should be covered with a substrate like peat or sphagnum moss. UVB lighting needs to be provided to mimic natural sunlight, as well as a ceramic heater or incandescent bulb for warmth. The habitat should be cleaned on a regular basis.

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