Veiled chameleons, otherwise known as Yemen chameleons, have been around for millions of years. With over 80 species of chameleons (Old World chameleons), veiled chameleons are also referred to as true chameleons. Veiled chameleons have something other chameleons do not, a ridge, or casque, on top their head. Veiled chameleons have become the new rage in the pet world and one of the most popular lizard to get.
Things one needs to know about these fascinating creatures before deciding to have one as a pet is that they can be territorial and aggressive towards other chameleons and do not like being handled. Think of chameleons like having fish in an aquarium. No one handles their fish and so chameleons should be looked upon as more of a display pet rather than an interactive one.
When chameleons are first-born, they appear a light shade of green, almost pastel or Chartreuse and will grow into their colorful form when they reach adulthood. Males, like in many animal species, are the more colorful and can range from green, blue, bright yellow or gold, orange and red with black spots and stripes. Females tend to be more subdued and keep various shades of greens, browns with spots of tan, white and orange. The transformation from hatchling to adult is rather astonishing. Males can grow up to 24 inches while females will grow up to 14. The chameleons casque starts off as a tiny bump on the head but then can grow into a 2 inch casque when an adult. Unlike many other reptiles, the veiled chameleons sex is much easier to determine at birth. The males are born with tarsal spurs or “spurs” located at the back of their hind legs.
One major misconception is that chameleons can change color in accordance to what they are standing on. This has some truth to it but it mostly is deceiving. When at rest, chameleons normally do take on the colors or shades of their surroundings. However, it is when the chameleons get frightened, or stressed do they turn bright colors. Colors also change when defending their territory or when courting. So though chameleons can change colors quickly it is not just for camouflage reasons. Their color change is not the only interesting or fun thing about these veiled chameleons that are making them all the new rage in the pet world.
The chameleons eyes can actually move independently and each eye can move almost 180 degrees. In other words, one eye could be looking straight ahead while the other is looking directly behind it. While keeping perfectly still, the chameleon can watch prey moving with one eye and scope for predators with the other. Their bodies are leaf-shaped and somewhat flattened on each side. They can sit and wait, like a spider, for its prey to come in close enough range before it strikes. When chameleons do go on the hunt, they move ever so slowly and rock back and forth like a leaf in the wind.
These specialized lizards have one thing that turns them into fierce predators and that is their tongue. A chameleons tongue is 1.5 times their body length and is very sticky, again like a spider web. With this powerful organ, the chameleon can strike out at prey from a distance, shooting their tongue out, catching the prey and springing it into the chameleons mouth. The “shooting” of the tongue is as fast as the blinking of an eye. Chameleons eat a variety of insects with meal worms and crickets being their main staple.
Veiled chameleons do not drink like other reptiles or animals, instead they get water from the moisture on leaves and plants. So pet owners need to spray the leaves inside the mesh cage at least twice a day. Chameleons are kept in mesh cage aquariums due to the important fact that they need the cross breeze. Male chameleons can live up to eight years with the females living up to five.
Females can breed three times a year and will change color after a successful breeding in about 18 hours. After mating successfully, female chameleons will lay their eggs in about 20-30 days with anywhere from 35-85 eggs.
Veiled chameleons are such pleasurable creatures for those that can respect the fact that they are more of a display pet. As any pet, though veiled chameleons have become the new rage, owners are encouraged to do research before deciding to take one home.
By Derik L. Bradshaw