Trioceros jacksonii: Purchasing a New Chameleon

Multi-Media Resources

When considering to buy a Jackson’s Chameleon there are a number of multi-media resources to match your preferred learning style.

Video Episode

Podcast Episode

Machakos Hills Jackson's Chameleon

This is what you want in a Jackson's Chameleon!

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This female Jackson’s Chameleon is showing the strength, alertness, and vigor you are looking for in a healthy chameleon. She is full of confidence and would make an excellent choice.

healthy baby jackson's chameleon

This is a young male Jackson’s Chameleon. Notice how he is able to hold his body up and climb easily? He shows no sign of MBD or nutritional issues. His eyes are bright and alert. He is skittish, as youngsters tend to be, and does not like to stay still! This juvenile is about four months old and his green color is starting to come in.

Finding a Jackson's Chameleon

Yellow-crested Jackson’s Chameleons (Trioceros jacksonii xantholophus) are quite easy to find. In the US, wild caught T.j.xantholophus from Hawaii are readily available at reptile shows, standard pet stores, and from online keepers that have had surprise babies. There are few consistent hobbyist breeders of Hawaiian Jackson’s Chameleons because the price pressure from wild caughts makes breeding programs unsustainable. The wild caught chameleons come in with the standard capture stress and issues. It is highly encouraged to bypass the cheap price and get yourself a solid captive bred, well started juvenile. If you are looking for a pet then ask around and see if there are any babies available. The most reliable source for captive bred Jackson’s Chameleons are dedicated breeders. It is worth the wait and extra effort to get the best animal to start with. Since you are on this site and have all this information, you are getting ready for a seven year relationship with your chameleon. Don’t be impatient. Be selfish and get the best animal possible. If you are balking at the difference in price between captive bred from an approved breeder and a cheap wild caught or accidental breeder selling them as young as possible then take that savings, subtract out a veterinary visit cost, and divide the rest over seven years. It isn’t worth it to compromise when it comes to chameleon quality. Get the strongest, most well started, and captive born individual possible. If you are interested in getting a captive born individual or unrelated pair then please join the Jackson’s Chameleon Facebook group and ask if there are any breeders you can be put in touch with. There are no sales allowed on the Facebook platform so do not mention buying. Simply ask if there are breeders you may get in touch with.

If you plan on breeding at any time in the future we encourage you to find and breed Kenyan bloodlines. You will also want to get used to using the scientific names as the common name usage can get confusing. “Kenyan Jackson’s Chameleon” is often used as a common name for T.j.jacksonii, while “Kenyan Xanths” refer to T.j.xantholophus from Kenya.


Other sub-species: At the time of this writing (June 2020), there are no co-ordinated captive breeding programs of T.j.jacksonii or T.j.merumontanus. T.j.jacksonii is sporadically imported and often babies are born. Thus both wild caught and CBB are regularly available if you know where to look. T.j.merumontaus, from Tanzania, may be exported again, but Tanzania is highly unpredictable. Captive bred “merus” are almost never available. Hopefully, we can change that in the near future.

Sex: whether you get male or female is personal preference. The only major difference is if you pick up a wild caught specimen. If you get a wild caught female it is likely she will have babies waiting to present to you when you least expect it.

Straight Horns on a Jackson's Chameleon

For many years, people would specifically ask suppliers for a Jackson’s Chameleon with straight horns. This is because the population on Hawaii, where most were coming from in the US, has had a genetic drift due to the inbreeding from so many generations from a small gene pool of escaped pet store chameleons. One aspect of this was that the horns of the male would go off in different directions or curve. As far as you are concerned as a pet owner, this is completely cosmetic and not an issue. They will make great pets. As a breeder I strongly encourage you to work with Kenyan bloodlines to avoid perpetuating the weaker genetics.

The horn issue is not a black and white situation. You will find horn drift in some Kenyan animals and you will find straight horns on some chameleons of Hawaiian origin. It is there are a greater percentage of Hawaiian chameleons with this condition. It is enough that Jackson’s Chameleons with horns like the Kenyan stock were highly sought after. If this is important to you then you have a greater chance of the aesthetic you are looking for with Kenyan bloodlines.

Jackson's Chameleon

Every chameleon’s horns are different, but this is a typical example of a male Jackson’s Chameleon of Hawaiian origin.

Jackson's Chameleon

This is an example of a typical male Jackson’s Chameleon of Kenyan origin.

Sources to Purchase a Jackson's Chameleon

Jackson’s Chameleon Private Breeders

The absolute best source for a Jackson’s Chameleon is a reputable breeder. Please check out the Jackson’s Chameleon Facebook group to learn more about who they are and what is available. On that group you may  ask if there are any breeders you can be put in touch with. There are no sales allowed on the Facebook platform so do not mention buying. Simply ask if there are breeders you may get in touch with.

Jackson’s Chameleons take a bit more effort than other species, so get from a dedicated breeder rather than a casual breeder that just got a bunch of unplanned babies. Jackson’s Chameleon babies are easy to get, but harder to raise up to a strong age where they can be safely sold to new homes. There seems to be a difficult time around three months old where many seem to die. We are still getting to the bottom of the cause, but, until we do, serious breeders will have to hold on to their Jackson’s Chameleon babies much longer than breeders of other species.  Finding babies that are born will be simple. Getting a strong, well-started captive born sub-adult from a serious breeder will take some searching and patience, but is well worth that effort.


Jackson’s Chameleons from a Pet Store.

Many impulse buys come from pet stores. Unfortunately, pet stores generally get in what is available and training of staff is minimal to non-existent since the management may have never known what to do with a chameleon before. You will probably be getting a wild-caught animal and you’ll want to be very careful for sickness. Even reptile specialty stores are often woefully lacking in chameleon husbandry information. I am sorry to say that I have to caution you to research anything a pet store employee tells you. Even the one who says that the owner – or anyone else – is a breeder. The information coming from pet stores is usually abysmal. Your first clue is when they tell you that Jackson’s Chameleons can be kept together. Everything else that comes out of their mouth is a waste of your time.


Jackson’s Chameleons at Reptile Shows

Jackson’s chameleons are often sold at reptile shows where they have 20 wild caught mixed in a cage with depressingly inadequate conditions. Please don’t support these meat market peddlers. But if you do, all concerns regarding poorly cared for wild caught apply. Babies are sporadically available. Study what a healthy chameleon looks like and do not compromise or let your sympathies get wrapped up in “rescuing” a chameleon unless you are fully aware as to what this entails and have the money to spare for vet visits. There will be experienced and competent chameleon breeders that go to shows. They will have uncrowded and clean cages as well as in-depth knowledge of husbandry. And they will let you know that Jackson’s Chameleons cannot be kept together even if it means losing a sale. In fact, if you buy a pair and come back to pick them up with only one cage under your arm the reputable breeders will possibly just refund your money and not sell to you.


Jackson’s Chameleons in Online Sources & Classifieds

Online classifieds will give you the best prices anywhere! Unfortunately, that is usually because the seller wants to get rid of them quickly. The mother was likely wild caught and had babies in the facility. It is an investment to care for a mother and then properly care for the babies until they can be sold so any price of captive born babies under $100 is a warning sign. I work with a dedicated team of Jackson’s Chameleon Keepers and we trouble shoot Jackson’s Chameleon issues on the above mentioned Facebook Group. We are constantly helping people who have gotten a great deal on a Jackson’s Chameleon only to find the baby was shipped too soon and is having issues. Easily 50% of these die.  There are exceptions and you may get lucky. But I recommend insisting on quality when selecting an animal. Nothing else you do matters if your chameleon is sick or dies.

Buying for Breeding Jackson's Chameleons

If you are intending to start a breeding project then you will be concerned more for genetics than the outside appearance. If you get an unrelated captive born pair then you get both. But if you are purchasing wild caught then injuries from living life are common. If they are healed then this does not have an effect on breeding potential. In fact, some breeders even prefer the ones with battle wounds. These individuals have shown their strength in conquering injury!

Jackson's Chameleons

Missing horns and this completely healed foot injury are cosmetic and do not affect breeding or pet potential


This seminar is part of the Jackson’s Chameleon Profile.

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