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Jacksons Chameleon with a Temporal Gland Infection

Ep 166: Temporal Gland Infections with Dr. Tom Greek

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If you are a keeper of the Jackson’s Chameleon, you may be familiar with the temporal gland. It is a gland at the corner of the mouth that seems prone to infection. When husbandry is off. This is a significant health issue with Jackson’s Chameleons and one that is worth being familiar with. If you do not have a Jackson’s Chameleon, fear not, the review on bacterial infections can apply to any of our chameleons, temporal gland or not. To review the Temporal Gland Infection, or TGI in abbreviation, I am bringing on Dr. Tom Greek of Greek and Associates Veterinary Hospital in Yorba Linda, CA which is on the edge of Orange County. He is one of those more-valuable-than-gold vets because of his extensive experience with chameleons.  I know this first hand as he has seen my chameleons from the Brookesia Madagascar stump-tailed chameleons to the giant Parson’s Chameleon for over two decades. Let’s bring him on and talk about Temporal Gland Infections.

 

Chameleon keepers are well aware that we need to provide the correct environmental conditions or else our chameleon’s immune system will be compromised, possibly leading to a bacterial infection. This is common to all of the species. Jackson’s Chameleon keepers have an extra area that is prone to these infections, but it shouldn’t be something that keeps you from considering a Jackson’s Chameleon. With all chameleons, proper husbandry will be what keeps them in health with or without a temporal gland. In fact, with the three Jackson’s chameleons I have had an issue with in the last year, they have all been in the lacrimal nasal duct, not the temporal gland. They are all treated the same way. And I know exactly what caused them – temperature spikes due to the recent heat waves. This of course has got me thinking that the days of easy outdoor keeping of Jackson’s Chameleons for me in Southern California may be waning. I used to have two cages for each chameleon – an indoor cage and an outdoor cage and it is time for me to return to that very good policy.

 

As for what you should do. If you have a Jackson’s Chameleon – or any chameleon – look for slight swelling along the lip line. If you catch it early, which let’s hope you do, it will be so slight that you wonder if it is your imagination. This is the perfect tie to go with your gut feeling that something is off. Check the other side and see if there is any difference. See if you can get him to open his mouth so you can see if there is any swelling on the inside. Here is the big problem with chameleon veterinary medicine. The condition is most treatable when you can’t be sure if it is really a problem or not. But if you wait until there is no doubt then your chances of beating it are reduced. So, this is where being laser focused on any subtle changes in your chameleon’s appearance or demeanor pays off. And I always say, I hate wasting money going into the vet, but the best news I can get is that there is nothing wrong. Now there is one caveat. And this is where it is tricky. You have to have a realistic sense of how good you are in determining something is off with your chameleon. A physical swelling is easy. The vet may be even better to diagnose it than you are. And, this covers the TGIs that this episode is about. But if we are talking about infections on a higher level then we are including in our discussion other infection areas. And if you see your chameleon being lethargic, sitting with his eyes closed, or nose pointed in the air he is giving behavioral signs of an infection taking hold. The infection may at such a level that your chameleon will be able to totally mask it at the Vet office. When your chameleon is hyped up on adrenaline he isn’t thinking about acting sick. So he could very well be acting totally healthy when your vet gives him an exam. At this time it may be a blood test that is needed to definitively prove thee is an infection going on. Experienced reptile vets will know how well reptiles hide their sickness and will consider your behavior report an important part of their diagnosis. And the broad spectrum antibiotics have a high level of safety. You definitely do not want to give medications unless they are needed, but the vet, may decide that the minor consequences of giving the antibiotic Baytril on a behavior-based suspicion are usually a better risk than waiting for more definitive physical sign. Once again, in the chameleon world, a reptile experienced, or better yet, a chameleon experienced veterinarian is gold. It is 100% worth it even if you have to drive a distance to get to them.

If you are in the Orange County area of Southern California, you have access the Dr. Greek. He is in the city of Yorba Linda.

 

But even vets that say they see exotics are not always chameleon experienced. So I will be starting a veterinarian list on the Chameleon Academy website of offices that my listeners have verified are good chameleon experienced veterinarians. Not just exotics and not just reptiles, but chameleons. And I am looking for personal experience. I’d like for this to be a global resource so please share your vet names no matter which country you are in!  If you are a vet listening and you are experienced with chameleons please get in contact with me so I can list your office as well. We are constantly helping people around the world find a vet. Bottom line – if you see chameleons please let me know. And I am confident that if you are listening to this podcast you have already shown an above average dedication to chameleons. Whether you are a vet that works with chameleons or a keeper that has a chameleon vet you are happy with, please email names and/ or links to bill@chameleonacademy.com  and I will create this resource for our community.

Thank you Dr. Greek for joining me here today and sharing your experience with the community. And, I personally thank you for the decades of being part of the community. And to you listeners, I thank you for joining me and Dr. Greek for our talk on TGIs. So go out into the world and keep a close watch on the jawlines of those three horned mini-tree dragons….Wow, you know you are part of a ultra-specialized community when that constitutes as a good sign off.

Chameleon Veterinarian

 


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Panther Chameleon

Ep 165: Chameleon Photography with Briana O’Brien

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Anyone who has tried to take a picture of a chameleon has found out that it isn’t that easy. They actively plot against you and your Instagram aspirations. So, in an effort to figure out how I can take better pictures of my chameleons I searched out the person who is not only the most prolific chameleon photographer of our time, but her work looks great. Perhaps some of that could rub off on me with just a podcast interview and ten short years of dedicated practice. Of course, I speak of Briana O’Brien who is the photographer from Kammerflage Kreations. She fills their social media accounts with a great deal of eye candy every week. Those with a photographic eye will notice an evolution of style, skill, and technique. So, can a talk with Briana change this iPhone wielding chameleon wrangler into a photographic artist? I will bring her on and we shall see

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Jackson's Chameleon

Ep 164: The Early Chameleon Community with Jeff Hattem

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Today I have the honor of sharing with you a part of our early chameleon community. A multigenerational breeding project in the US which started in 1967,.. It was modelled off of a German project that took Jackson’s Chameleons to the F3 generation and a Southern California reptile club decided to replicate the experiment. I will be bringing on Jeff Hattem who, as a young man, was part of this project. Please join me in a view into our past.

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green tree python

Ep 163: Green Tree Python Husbandry Pt 2. with Patrick Holmes

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Good morning Chameleon Wranglers! We have been spending the last couple weeks studying the Green Tree Python. This final week we wrap it up by me asking Patrick Holmes to lead us through the steps for us to get started with this beautiful snake. One of the most interesting things about this interview, from a high level, was seeing the parallels between our communities.  You listen in you will hear some very familiar statements. Because they are the truth in all of our communities. Things like investing upfront in the genetics and health of the animal and proper set-up or else you will be investing that saved money in vet bills on the backside. Or else there being a distinct difference between stress spikes and chronic stress. Hmmm, are we seeing the dynamic of convergent evolution at play?

I invite you to listen in and enjoy the conclusion of our study into the Green Tree Python with Patrick Holmes.

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Green Tree Python husbandry

Ep 162: Green Tree Python Husbandry Pt 1. with Patrick Holmes

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Good morning, Chameleon Wranglers! Last week we were joined by Patrick Holmes for an introduction to the Green Tree Python. Today we start in on the husbandry talk. We will actually have two episodes worth of husbandry information. The reason for this is that we are not just listing off parameters for us to blindly follow. Patrick is one of those who values you knowing why he says what he says, and thinks it is important that we acknowledge other methods. Sound familiar? So, even if you never plan on getting a green tree python, the approach you are about to hear deals with issues we face no matter what reptile we keep. This is very much about the compromises and decisions we are faced with when we strive to recreate a natural environment with unnatural equipment on the other side of the Earth.

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Green Tree Pythons

Ep 161: Green Tree Pythons with Patrick Holmes

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Welcome to this episode of the Outer Fringes. I must say that this episode has been hotly anticipated. Green Tree Pythons fit the bill as an arboreal reptile with a dedicated community that surrounds it. This is important to us because they have studied there reptile as deeply as we have studied ours and we can both benefit from each other’s efforts. And, if there is one snake that would be a natural transition for us, Green Tree Pythons, (or their boa counterpart, the Emerald Tree), would be top of the list for many of us!

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Nepenthes and chameleons

Ep 160: Nepenthes Tropical Pitcher Plants with Jeremiah Harris

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The Nepenthes Tropical Pitcher plants are one of the most striking plants we can include in our chameleon environments. Their leaves sport ornate carnivorous pitchers at the ends and they add a flash of adventure to our plantscape. With me is Jeremiah Harris to share his expertise in this exciting genus!

Thoughts from the podcaster :)

Chameleon owners have long been fascinating by the Nepenthes tropical pitcher plant. Though there wasn’t much overlap between the two hobbies mainly because screen cages and our selected temperature ranges for chameleons weren’t a perfect match. But with the increased awareness and execution of naturalistic hydration cycles, solid side cage, and a little help from Nepenthes hybridizers, these carnivores are now hardy in our cage environmental ranges and easily found online or public nurseries. As we shift our focus from just caging. Chameleon to creating a sanctuary environment which includes a chameleon we are expanding our focus to include interesting plants. And, Nepenthes certainly are at the top of those charts!

To introduce us to Nepenthes, Jeremiah Harris, a lifelong carnivorous plant enthusiast joins me. His greenhouses are things of wonder and just looking through his social media accounts, which are linked to in the show notes, you can imagine getting lost for days just peering into all the nooks and crannies, so to speak. So I am going to bring him on and we are going to hear all about these fascinating plants from a man who loves his plants like we love our chameleons!

Well, it is time for me to expand some species in my chameleon environments! Now, I want to address the most common question once more.

Nepenthes send out long leaves that develop literal pitchers at the end. These pitchers contain liquid which digests insects, or any other animal that falls in. Now, the initial response from chameleon keepers is to ask why you would include a plant in the cage that will eat your chameleon. The answer is that we wouldn’t. If you get good enough raising up your nepenthes that it produces pitchers actually big enough to trap your chameleon then you are quite accomplished and, hopefully, have the common sense to remove one of the two from the cage. If the chameleon can fit in the pitcher then you have an issue. Although chameleons would not be attracted to the sweet liquid like insects and mammals I really don’t want to get an email from someone who put a baby chameleon in with a mature Nepenthes 'Miranda' and then one day couldn’t find their chameleon. For almost all cases, you will be fine, but discernment is required.

If the theme of this podcast of creating beautiful vibrant, living environments for your chameleons resonates with you then take a look at adding a Nepenthes. They are sold as Monkey Cups at home improvement stores so they are easy to get a hold of. Humidity is the biggest challenge in areas that are dry. But if you are embracing the naturalistic hydration cycles you have what you need to keep these common hybrids happy. They were developed to be hardier at easy to reproduce conditions! So that is right up our alley.

I highly recommend following Jeremiah on social media. If nothing else, just to be exposed to the rich variety of pitchers in Nepenthes. Like chameleons and all of these outer fringes, there is enough diversity that you spend your life studying them and getting to know the characteristics of each species. Check the show notes for those links!

Thank you for joining Jeremiah and me here today! What I would really love is for you to tag me and Jeremiah on cages that you add Nepenthes to! They may take some skill to get them in the area of your cage that has just the right microclimate, but this is the fun of what we do. I look forward to seeing the results!

So, go out into the chameleon world and make some gorgeous environments that make people’s jaws drop even before they see the chameleon!

N. bongso 900x1200S

Nepenthes bongo

Holding a N. truncata x ephippiata 900x1200s

Holding a Nepenthes truncata x ephippiata

Nepenthes edwardsiana

Nepenthes edwardsiana

Nepenthes veitchii

Nepenthes veitchii

N. veitchii ‘Geoff Wong’

Nepenthes veitchii ‘Geoff Wong’

Nepenthes edwardsiana

Nepenthes hamata

Nepenthes truncata 900x1200

Nepenthes truncata

Nepenthes veitchii K

Nepenthes veitchii K

Nepenthes veitchii x boschiana

Nepenthes veitchii x boschiana

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Chameleon sleeping

Ep 159: Nighttime Temperature Drops with Petr Necas

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Nighttime drops are an important part of chameleon husbandry. Today, I talk with Petr Necas about understanding why they are important and what they mean for us providing the best captive care possible.

Final thoughts

Nighttime drops are tricky because they aren’t always easy for us to provide. Many of us live far from the equator and so our temperatures are either too hot or too cold through much of the year. Without a temperature controlled reptile room our base environmental conditions to work from are the house ambient conditions. Those do not always offer a nice 15-20 degree F drop at night. This clashes with our love for montane chameleons. Our most common Jackson’s chameleon, the xantholophus, or yellow-crested Jackson’s, start in above 1500 meters in elevation and Veiled Chameleons are higher up at around 2000 meters. Although we are proud of ourselves with keeping a chameleon for four to five years of age, that is an achievement only when compared to the woefully short captive lifespans of the 1900s. But we should be shooting for lifespans of 7 years, ten years, or even greater. And this takes a different mindset. To realize our chameleon’s full lifetime potential we need to be smart about what we accept as proper husbandry. And this is difficult. If panther chameleon babies routinely and conveniently accept being raised in groups and the effects on them are not measured in the first six months, but in the last years of their life then how do you prove this to a community that places a high value on efficiency of production? If we want a veiled chameleon, but do not want to put in an air conditioning unit that gets their nighttime sleep into the 50s F then it is much easier to listen to the multitude of voices saying they never gave their veileds a nighttime drop and their’s lived just fine – and you find out that their’s lived just fine for a full four years then you start to see how all of the compromises of conditions that we accept and we justify with the phrase “and they are doing just fine” are really shortening their lives. But this exercise is futile directed at other people because you will not be able to put a finger on the effects. All of this is cumulative and proof of longevity is a ten + year project. No, the most effective way to explore longevity is to turn the light on yourself and dive into each and every aspect of your own husbandry. Don’t waste time chiding people on social media. Use that energy to refine your own husbandry. Your long lived chameleons will be the undeniable proof of your methods. And before you go thinking I am telling you all what you should do, I produce a show that drives our chameleon husbandry forward. It is my job to explore and present the best we know and the mindset we need to have. But this is all a message to me as well. I would not be doing my job if I waiting until I had all my husbandry dialed in before I presented this information. I am struggling with the same things you are and to live up to what I passionately present here. I just moved and my entire hydration cycle has been knocked out of whack. I am still working on getting all the fogging set back up. But that doesn’t mean I excuse it by saying “oh, they are doing just fine, I guess it isn’t that important.” No, I know I better get that back up because there is only a certain amount of buffer time I have before I will see the effects at the end of their lives. And it is my responsibility to present the best information whether I am living up to it or not. Obviously, it would be a ridiculous for me to go through all the work putting together this show and not following what is presented so, I guarantee you I am implementing what we have here. But I just want you to know that me passionately saying that chameleon’s need a nighttime drop does not mean that I do not understand the struggle of providing it. I struggle with living in a hot, dry climate. Just like other people struggle with being in a cold climate that, during summer, literally does not have a nighttime. And you thought your problems were bad? We all have challenges based on our situation. So none of this is preaching. On this show my roles switch between being the information summarizer, the voice of the listener asking the questions on everyone’s mind, and the presenter. But, off microphone, I am a hobbyist trying to bend my conditions for chameleon longevity just like you.

One important part of the interview was when we discussed how the wild is different from captivity. This is particularly relevant when entering into the discussion about introduced populations. I am regularly challenged when I say Jackson’s Chameleons need cool daytime temperatures and a nighttime drop by people pointing to the population on Hawaii. To this I say that we are already challenged when we try to create a natural environment in a small space. There are already compromises we cannot avoid. We do not have an entire tree and forest’s worth of microclimates to offer. We want to be as natural as possible, but without all the exposure and hiding options we do not want to replicate the temperature highs or the afternoon UVB intensities. Hawaii is not their home. It is in their tolerance range and they have adapted as best as they can. They have done a good job of it. But don’t use that Hawaii for Jackson’s or Florida for Veileds and panthers to argue proper husbandry. It is merely showing their tolerance range and, as I have said, they have many more options in the wild to hide away from the conditions you think they are “fine with”.

If you are interested in learning more about Petr and his work with chameleons check out his website chameleons.info. of particular value are his experiences with Chamaeleo calyptratus as he is one of the few people who has visited their natural home range in Yemen. To get a deep dive on that information you can visit his website or listen to my multi-episode interview with him regarding the Veiled Chameleon starting with episode 86.

In captivity, we are striving for providing the best care possible for our reptilian friends. With all the compromises we take on, we must stack the advantages up the most we can. And we do have some powerful tools on our side. We offer a predator and parasite free life. We offer consistent and, hopefully, nutritious food. Medical care is there the second they need it. So the name of the game is to offer way more benefits than compromises. And we are doing a good job of that as we see lifespans creeping higher and higher. We are on the right track and we are making progress. The deep and rejuvenating rest provided by a nighttime temperature drop is a valuable tool in our mission stack the odds in the favor of a long chameleon life.

Links for more work from Petr Necas

Chameleons.info is a website blog where Petr shares his world travelling experiences with chameleons. This is a valuable exposure to the wild conditions of chameleons.

 

Petr Necas
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Jackson's Chameleon

Ep 158: Chameleon Health Points

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Chameleon husbandry is made up of many aspects including environmental conditions, nutrition, and emotional security. Everything we do that gets our husbandry closer to the optimal conditions strengthens our chameleon. Everything we do that is off weakens our chameleon. Today I talk about the cumulative effects of stress and how we should look at each one of these husbandry parameters.

Transcript (More or Less)

Chameleon husbandry is made up of many, many interlocking pieces from lighting, heat, air circulation, nutrition, hydration, emotional health, and the list gets quite lengthy when you start getting more detailed. And it isn’t just getting the individual values right, it is getting the values right in balance with the other values being right at the right time in the day and life. Wow, with such restrictions, how, in the world, can a chameleon survive in the wild?

Well, because they were not just thrown into the wild. They evolved within those wild conditions. And they grew to both work with and rely on those natural conditions. They have their instincts set up to allow them to negotiate within certain ranges of conditions and to move their bodies to fine tune their life experience.

The reason why they got the reputation of being delicate was that we took them out of this system they were optimized for and plopped them into completely foreign conditions and are requiring both their bodies and their behavior to adjust to and work within something completely different.

And it is our job to try and match the cage conditions as close as possible to the natural conditions they are built for. We start with a macro understanding of the home environment, meaning the weather patterns taken from some weather station somewhere in the general geographical vicinity and try to apply that to our cages. But they live in a rich network of microclimates and while the weather station may read 90 degrees F, the chameleon may be hiding deep in the shade where it is cooler. And they certainly do not bask at mid-afternoon UVB levels, so we rely on people who can relate the chameleon’s behavior first hand so we can extract what the chameleon may be using and what it may be escaping as far as the environment.  Temperature, humidity, UVB, nutrition, security,….

Your chameleon’s health is the sum of all these values. If they have a cold night and get deep sleep then they get five health points. If the humidity was low during the night and they got dehydrated they lose three health points. If water is provided to them in the morning they gain two health points, but not the full three because they went through the dehydration. They see a chameleon in their cage and the chameleon is bigger than they are and is blocking their way to the feeder bowl and they lose five points in stress. The last feeder left that they did snag was well fed and powdered with calcium and that gives them a positive point. The UVB bulb gives them UVB, but is very high level so 2 points for getting vitamin D, but losing a point for the body being stressed from defending against the intensity. And it goes on and on. Points given for conditions that match their ideal and points removed for things that don’t. Of course, this plays out every day in the wild, but, remember, in the wild they are under conditions that they have adapted to. We remove predators and parasites, but give them air conditioned air and a heat lamp in place of the sun. We give them all the vitamins and minerals we can think to throw at the wall, but we give them in amounts and balances that may or may not require the body to work overtime to process. So the point is that each one of these husbandry aspects adds or subtracts from your chameleon’s health. When our chameleon gets sick, sure, it can be because of one overwhelming thing such as a temperature spike into triple digits or being left in the direct sun for a couple hours.  But think of how many times you have seen bacterial infections. Bacteria are all around us and the chameleon’s immune system is constantly fighting it off. A bacterial infection occurs when something happens which weakens the immune system. This can be a break in the skin where there is a sudden surge of bacteria where there shouldn’t be, but something like a respiratory infection is generally when the immune system is weakened and cannot fight off the bacteria that are breathed in. The immune system weakens when their health points are below a certain level.

So, where am I going with all of this? I want to explain that this is why a full husbandry review is necessary when determining why a chameleon is sick. We would love to think that there is one smoking gun. The temperature. The UVB. The cage set-up. And it is very tempting to find the first thing that doesn’t match our caresheet, call it out, and exit victorious. And, while it is true that we can often find one huge discrepancy it is important that we find all the issues in the husbandry. That one huge item we found, be it the temperature was too high or the supplements could be off, may have been the major thing that pushed the chameleon over the edge, but there could be a handful of other things that helped nudge it to the forefront.

In addition, if you are doing something that goes against conventional husbandry wisdom like keeping chameleons together or not giving a nighttime drop to your montane chameleons, you need to know that the effects of doing that are cumulative over time. You can get away with it for a while. If we use the “health points” analogy, if there is not enough nighttime drop for deep sleep you may lose 2 health points for the first week, 5 for the next week, and 10 for the next week. The first day or two living in the same cage with a dominate chameleon will be just a stress spike. After a week it becomes constant stress. The deceptive situation is that you are not seeing this slow degrading of the immune system. And then, out of nowhere, your chameleon gets an infection. That is the point where all these trivial husbandry issues summed up together to become negative and the immune system could not compete with the bacteria or fungus or whatever is attacking.

Two big culprits of cumulative stress are cohabitation and nighttime drops. The reason these husbandry issues continue are because we want what we want. We humans want to have at least a pair, but would love a herd, of chameleons in one cage. Despite decades of experienced keepers saying don’t do it and it being an unnatural condition, we cannot escape that we want to believe chameleons can be kept together. And there is always someone who wants to give that part of us hope and keeps chameleons together. And it appears to work. And as long as the chameleons are under these conditions the health points slowly ebb. But this is not visible. And when things finally go downhill it is due to respiratory infection or some other condition due to a weakened immune system. Folks, all of us saying not to do it are not saying that because we haven’t tried. We aren’t saying it because we just aren’t smart enough to figure it out. We are saying it because of decades of watching it be tried and failing. There is no power conspiracy here. Just be careful of the relentless loss of health points as stress spikes become low grade, but chronic, stress

Nighttime drops are another one. Especially for Jackson’s Chameleons. Our caresheets require ambient daytime temperatures in the low to mid 70s and a nighttime drop to the low 60s or 50s. Inevitably, someone brings up Jackson’s Chameleons establishing themselves in Hawaii and saying that the temperatures do not match what they survive in Hawaii. First, I want to say, if you are going to model your husbandry after a set of wild habitat parameters, use the land they spent their entire pre-history existence evolving to live in. Do not use a geographical area that they have been introduced to and the new land’s conditions happen to fall within the chameleon’s tolerance range. Saying that a chameleon can survive conditions other than its homeland is only showing their tolerance range, not their ideal range. And, yes, they have reproduced in Hawaii ad nauseum. So what is going on here? The same thing that goes on in our cages. They are in a constant condition of gaining and losing health points. They are finding cooler microclimates inside leafy trees and they are losing health points if they do not sleep deeply. You can still reproduce even when you are not on the top of your game.

We could go round and round about what the adaptation to Hawaii means, but my specialty is captive husbandry. And I will tell you that in the confines of the cage space we have available to us, the important parameters are not the macro conditions, but the microclimates that they spend their time in. It is not the conditions they can tolerate, but the conditions that nurture them. And determining these microclimate conditions is not easy at all. How much UVB does a chameleon expose itself to? At what combination of temperature and humidity and sun exposure does overheating occur? For these kinds of things we take our starting points from nature, but we have to experiment in our living rooms. Because our cages are very little like the wild condition. We have a constant UVB that flips on in the morning, stays at a constant rate, and then suddenly disappears. Same with light. The humidity- it is often air conditioned out of the air. And breezes occur when someone opens a door, turns on a fan, or that air conditioner again. And, finally, they are restricted to a space of a 2x2x4’ cage to find their preferred microclimates. Yes, they may have higher temperatures than ideal in their adopted new land, or even in their homeland, but they have entire trees and bush thickets to find cooler microclimates. Yes, we try to give them microclimates in the cage, but why would you start out your gradient with a temperature that is something they are having to tolerate. You are wasting valuable space.

And why would anyone resist a nighttime drop? Any one that seriously works with these higher altitude species would say that the nighttime drop is necessary or even critical. Well, simply because it is hard for some of us to get that low at night. Instead of paying the money for an air-conditioning unit or having the discipline to pick another species it is easier to decide they really don’t need that nighttime drop. And each night they don’t get good sleep is health points trickling away. And this isn’t hard to understand. You know how we humans get when we don’t have a good night’s sleep. It isn’t pretty. Take some of our recent summer months. One sweltering night being so hot that you are sweating onto the sheets and can’t get sleep because of swatting mosquitoes and the bags under your eyes could tell stories.  And after a week of sleepless nights you can’t decide whether you are the walking wounded or the living dead. Coffee is your best friend, but you are on a hair trigger temper. Yes, we survive, but every night you can feel your health points disappearing. Thankfully these heat waves go away and we get our health points back as we catch-up on our sleep again. And this isn’t just a game of logical leaps. You can tell how deeply your chameleon is sleeping. The warmer it is the lighter your chameleon sleeps and the easier your chameleon wakes up. You want your chameleon to have a deep sleep and that means cool, humid nights.

Like I said, the species that most gets the brunt of this ignoring of its needs is the Jackson’s Chameleon. If you have a Jackson’s Chameleon, I warn you against thinking it is okay to avoid a nightime drop. It will work for a while until they have worked through all their health points and then you get a Temporal Gland Infection…or your babies start dying off for no obvious reason. The two prime suspects in baby Jackson’s chameleons dying off: cohabitation and lack of nighttime drops. I can tell you from personal experience, when do I get a rash of infections? When we get the heat waves coming through Southern California. Life is perfect and Jackson’s thrive for most of the year. But when it gets hot the health points start to go the other way and a couple of infections crop up. I am on the look out and they get treated quickly. I have yet to lose one. And, really only one or two get them. So I could easily look at the ones that don’t and say they can handle the higher temperatures just fine. But that would be ignoring the overall trend that the instances of infections rise. And I have a big enough group that I can actually notice trends. Beware of getting husbandry advice that goes against the commonly accepted standards from people with one chameleon.

And, chances are that there is someone listening to this that will defend higher temperatures for Jackson’s Chameleons based on their interpretation of Hawaiian conditions. I only ask this. Before you make a logical argument that it is okay to keep Jackson’s at higher temperatures or without nighttime drops please try it out yourself in the captive cage environment and work out the issues. For those of us who have been working with Jackson’s over many generations and years we recognize that the nighttime drop and cooler daytime temperatures give the greatest success. This isn’t a game of what our chameleons can tolerate. It is a mission to determine what their optimal conditions are. I cannot think of any reasonable argument to include anything but the closest we know to optimal conditions when we give husbandry advice. So, when you bring up the Hawaii argument to say Jackson’s do not need a nighttime drop understand you are going to be shut down by the breeders who recognize you are suggesting sub-optimal husbandry. If you truly believe your position please put in the work we have and prove it over successful generations and side by side studies. I know that is a lot of work. But so much work has been put into supporting the need for a nighttime drop that it is appropriate that it take deliberate repeatable testing to modify that advice. That would expand our understanding of the species. Believe me, I would love to see that work done. But if you have just looked at numbers and have not gone through the effort of replicating what you are suggesting in the captive environment then go easy on your confidence in going against the best husbandry practices that we have come up with. We are always changing and growing. But we need to change and grow with a methodical approach. Get yourself some chameleons. Prove your idea correct. And then prove your idea wrong. If you can prove it right and can’t prove it wrong then you have a solid discovery to share with the community.

How about infertile egg production? That is a big one. Developing and then laying eggs is a major stress on a female’s body. Over feeding, over heating and then putting our female veiled chameleons through an egg production up to four or five times what their body is naturally expecting to do is a huge body stress. I wish we were farther along in dialing in the exact diet and temperatures, but many of us have been able to reduce or eliminate infertile clutches in our female veiled chameleons. My female has never had an infertile clutch. Unfortunately, she is still having much greater clutches than the target 20-30 so I am have not achieved the final goal, but it is easy to do by simply cutting back on how much you feed her and how hot you keep her. I am not giving you numbers yet because we are still working through what the numbers are. I do not suggest lightly the reduction of food and temperature because there is danger in too little and too cold and we have to find those limits. But I can tell you right now that the standard feeding and temperatures provided veiled chameleons right now are too much and too high. My caresheets are closer to where we need to be, but I know they are not the best numbers yet. As soon as I am personally confident that we have the right numbers I will change them. That needs to be done only after careful testing and replication of results. It will take time. But, excess weight and constant egg production of mega clutches, fertile or non,  is an obvious chipping away of the health points.

Anything else? Well, how about our humidity cycle? Our homes do not do well with close to 100% humidity at night. So all these chameleons in screen cages have a tube of fog to sit under if the keeper attempts at all to give them humid nights. Of course, since chameleons have been shown to be able to grow up and grow to what we presently consider to be old age using daytime misting not much thought is given to giving them what they naturally expect. I think we will be very surprised at how long they will actually live once we give them back the couple of health points they lose every night they dehydrate. Sure, they gain them back, or most of them, when the chameleon drinks in the morning. But just the act of losing and then gaining is a stress on the body which will shorten the overall life of your chameleon. That’s just the way life is.

So, ignoring the expected temperature drops, forcing social time on a non-social beast, ignoring the natural humidity cycle. Providing UVB that is higher than is necessary. Over feeding and over-energizing our chameleons. Stagnant air. Drafty air. Too hot, too cold.  All of these things take away health points.

Nutritious food, comfortable temperature ranges, constant hydration opportunities, a sense of security. These are all things that increase health points. The main point of this episode is to bring to light that each one of these husbandry items has a certain weight. Just because forgetting to replace your burnt out UVB bulb hasn’t killed your chameleon it doesn’t mean it hasn’t weakened your chameleon. Just because your chameleons have appeared to be living in harmony for the last six months doesn’t mean you haven’t been slowly reducing their immune system. It all adds or subtracts.

And this is why we dive into each species and learn their requirements and best practices. This is why we seek to determine what the optimal UVB level is for each species. And once we do that, we will go the next step of discerning what is needed for each life stage. This is our art and science. And if you love chameleons as much as I do, I invite you to get obsessive about what is optimal. So much of what I do here is refining things that aren’t necessarily broken. Someone might ask why we need panther chameleons to live more than five years. The answer is because they can. And all we have to do is do our job right as keepers. And I don’t mean get in fights with people with logical arguments over temperature ranges. I mean test things out and give hard repeatable benefits. One of our community’s greatest achievements in 2018 was the wide spread awareness of the naturalistic hydration approach. See episode 89. And 2018 was the first time much of the community learned that Veiled Chameleons are actually not from harsh dry landscapes and we got a first person account of the oases that they truly live in. Check out episode 86.  In 2019 it was the establishment of UVI 3 as the effective UVI for Veiled and Panther Chameleons. See episode 131. Pete Hawkins, Jonathan Hill, and I established that as a repeatable milestone. I also started working on awareness that we need to watch out for excessive UVB levels. See episode 127. 2020, this year, we have seen a breakthrough with incubation diapause from Frank Payne, (that was the episode for April 15, 2020) and serious work towards reducing clutch size and infertile clutches of female Veiled Chameleons with Mari Joki and people working with Petr Necas. (episode for April 6, 2020). Every year we are working on refining our husbandry and reducing the loss of health points. And, yes, we still have so much further to go. But that is why we need people willing to put in the work doing side by side studies. Talk is cheap, unless it is reporting hard work. The encouraging thing is that, as you can see, we are moving forward. Every year, for the past few years, we have made substantial steps forward as far as husbandry. And, if this podcast has anything to say about it, we will continue to make breakthroughs.

I’d like to thank you for joining me here. Thank you for joining me for these many years of podcasting about our chameleons and chameleon community. It doesn’t look like anything is slowing down. So buckle up and let’s see where we can take the art of chameleon husbandry!

 

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Trioceros ellioti

Ep 157: Trioceros ellioti with Michael Nash

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Trioceros ellioti is a  small chameleon from Eastern Africa that is a livebearing species with the typical care requirements of montane chameleons. It is a charming species where the males and females are equally desirable as far as color and shape. Ease of husbandry and hardiness of this species make it a prime candidate for establishing in captivity. Today, Michael Nash comes on and shares his insight into breeding this species. It is hoped that this will help increase the number of breeders working with T. ellioti and raise awareness for this species.

If you would like to contact Michael about obtaining some of the babies he produces you may contact him at nashchams@gmail.com .

To learn more about Trioceros ellioti and its husbandry please visit the Chameleon Academy Husbandry guide which was based upon the experience of Michael Nash. You can find it here: Trioceros ellioti Husbandry Guide

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