Jackson's chameleon
- Trioceros jacksonii

The Jackson's chameleon is diurnal and shows a foraging behavior with few movements per minute and a very slow locomotion rate.
Jackson's chameleon
Jackson's chameleon (Chamaeleo jacksonii) b. 27-01-2005 1 year Wellington Zoo 22-01-2006, Wellington, New Zealand – Photo credit: Peter Halasz. (User:Pengo)


Origin / Distribution

The Jackson's chameleon (Trioceros jacksonii) is native to Kenya and Tanzania.

It has been introduced in the US. USA, in California, Hawaii and Florida.

Subspecies of Trioceros Jacksonii

Currently there 3 subspecies of “Jackson's chameleon” Described:

  • Machakos Hills Jackson’s Chameleon (Trioceros jacksonii jacksonii)

    The Machakos Hills Jackson’s Chameleon is originally from Kenya, and it is the rarest type of chameleon. It measures an average of 20-25 cm long. Males have 3 horns, and the females have 1 or 3 little horns, which can sometimes make sex determination difficult. Females are lighter green in color than males., although sometimes they are red. Males are dark green., sometimes with aquamarine blue head and bright yellow patch on flanks. Individuals with this coloration may soon be described as a separate subspecies.

  • Mount Meru / Dwarf Jackson’s Chameleon (Trioceros jacksonii merumontanus)

    The Dwarf Jackson’s Chameleon comes from Tanzania and is very difficult to find in captivity. Wild-caught specimens are no longer available, as all export of wildlife from Tanzania is prohibited. it is extremely rare, although there are some breeders of the Mount Meru in Europe.

    These chameleons are the smallest of the species, with 17-20 cm length. Males have 3 long narrow horns, while the females only have a diminished horn on the nose. Both sexes have a dark green or blue-green body with much yellow on the face and at the base of the horns.. The eyelids are bluish-green.

  • Yellow-Crested Jackson’s Chameleon (Trioceros jacksonii xantholophus)

    The Yellow-Crested Jackson’s Chameleon is originally from Kenya, specifically from a limited range in the foothills of Mount Kenya and Nyambeni. It is the most common type of Jackson's chameleon. As the largest member of the species, individuals can grow to 36 cm long, and males are known to far outnumber 40 cm.. Males have 3 horns and females do not have horns.

    Invasive populations of the Trioceros jacksonii xantholophus are present in the Hawaiian Islands because a well-meaning pet store owner released some in O'ahu in 1972 in an attempt to restore the health of a wild-caught cargo from Africa. They have since spread to Maui., Hawaii and Kauai.

  • Characteristics / Appearance

    Most measure approximately between 15 and 35 cm length. They usually have several shades of green, but they can become as dark as black when they are very distressed.. Are sexually dimorphic. Males have three long, pointed horns protruding from the head. These horns are absent or underdeveloped in females. The back of the head has a small crest. There are small spines along the vertebral line. Like other chameleons, the Jackson's chameleon has zygodactyl feet (divided so that two fingers point inward and three point outward) that are specialized for life in trees, and a prehensile tail that is also used for grasping.

    However, the most recognizable feature of all chameleons are their eyes. The pupil is the only visible part from its skin covering. Each eye rotates 180 degrees and is independent of the other. Chameleons have unusually strong control over the curvature of their lenses, and can enlarge an image.

    They are considered a long-lived chameleon (until 10 years).


    The Jackson's chameleon prefers to live in thickets and mountain forests. They need to hide and prefer to live in trees. They rarely venture on the ground, except for laying eggs or mating.


    Males are territorial and fight with their horns, which they can also use to attract females. When two males meet, they stand on their side, flatten their bodies, curl their tails and push their heads forward. They inflate with air to appear larger and become brightly colored. Next, open their mouths to show the varied colors of their interior, while swaying and wiggling with the occasional soft hiss. The submissive male will normally try to hide, freeze on the spot or try to escape the area. Fade into muted colors. When males fight, they hit each other with their horns and try to push themselves from the branches. These fights can cause physical harm to chameleons.

    They use stillness and dull natural coloration to protect themselves from bird predation, Snakes, shrews and lizards.


    The Jackson's chameleon has a mating ritual that mimics its threat ritual. The male initiates the display of threat to the female, including color changes, inflating of the throat and elevation of the front legs towards the opponent. The female then has two options. May make threatening gestures, in which case you do not want to mate. If you want to mate, make weak threatening gestures or make no gestures at all, in which case the male recognizes his will. Then the male surrounds the female, grabs your neck with your mouth, is placed on your back and inserts the hemipene into the cloacal orifice. This whole process usually takes a few 13 minutes. The female will continue to mate during 11 days, but not with the same male twice in a day. Gestation lasts approximately 190 days. The young are usually born in the morning. The female opens the cloaca and the young are born one at a time on a branch.. They are still surrounded by a gelatinous egg sac and remain asleep until the egg touches the substrate.. The young then wake up and stretch and break the egg sac.. At birth, the offspring measure some 5,5 cm long and weigh some 0,6 Gm. After 20 days females copulate again. The young will reach sexual maturity at the age of 9 or 10 months.


    The diet of this chameleon consists mainly of insects and spiders. Using your eyes independently, sit completely still and watch if an element of prey crosses your path. When you locate it, both eyes converge and it swings a bit to improve its vision and confirm the distance at which the prey is located.. The prey is captured by projecting the tongue, which has a fleshy tip covered in sticky saliva. The prey is brought back to the mouth, chewed and swallowed. Language, one and a half times the length of the lizard, can reach its full length in a sixteenth of a second.

    They get water by licking the drops from the leaves.

    In the morning, sunbathe, bending one side towards the light and flattening the body and stretching the neck to increase its surface. Once heated, are able to hunt.

    Threats to the species

    State of conservation ⓘ

    Status Minor Concern ⓘ (UICN)ⓘ

    The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) classifies all chameleons as threatened. Two reasons for its decline are habitat destruction and the exotic pet trade.. Demand for chameleons encourages pet suppliers to pull them out of the wild and ship them over long distances; the survival rate may be approximately 1 of each 10, and those who survive arrive malnourished and stressed. Proper care methods for these lizards are not well understood, so they can be mistreated without knowing it. Captive breeding has not been very successful, with the exception of the San Diego Zoo and some private breeders.

    The "Jackson's chameleon" in captivity

    The terrarium

      Size: The bigger, best, minimal 60 x 45 x 90cm.
      Type of cage: Full or hybrid mesh (combination of mesh and glass or panel)
      Lights: UVB source (inside or outside), natural light source (window or LED) (inside or outside), Heat source (exterior)
      Hydration: Nebulizer at night, manual misting in the morning and afternoon
      Ventilation: full mesh, Small fans when using a hybrid cage and/or the air is stagnant
      Interior: live plants (not fake), natural branches (no fake vines, non-strings, non-bleached wood), non-substrate.


      UVB light source: T5 HO 12 hours a day, 5-12% according to the height of the cage
      Visible light: Full spectrum or natural light, 12 hours a day
      Resting point: 26-28°C, 1 time maximum 2 times a day
      Temperature during the day: 21-23°C.
      Temperature at night: Max. 15-17°C, Ideal temperature below 15°C.
      Humidity during the day: 50-70%.
      Humidity at night: 100%, fog
      Hydration: Nebulizer at night, Manual nebulization, Dropper
      Type of feeding: Crickets, Soldier flies, Cockroaches, No vegetables, Fruit-free
      Volume of food: Youth without limit, Adults maximum 1 daily cricket
      Supplement – Every meal: Simple calcium, Bee pollen
      Supplementation – Once every two weeks: Calcium with D3

    Buy one "Jackson's chameleon"

    The price of a "Jackson's chameleon" at the exotic animal market, ranges between 150 – 250 EUR.

    Videos "Jackson's chameleon"

    Alternative names:

      1. Jackson's chameleon, Jackson’s horned chameleon, Three-horned chameleon, Kikuyu three-horned chameleon (English).
      2. Caméléon de Jackson, Chamaeleon jacksonii (French).
      3. Dreihornchamäleon (German).
      4. Camaleão-de-jackson, Chamaeleo jacksonii, Camaleão-de-três-chifres (Portuguese).
      5. "Camaleón de Jackson", Trioceros de Jackson (español).
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