Malagasy giant chameleon
- Furcifer oustaleti

The Malagasy giant chameleon is considered the longest chameleon in the world (although exceptionally longer adults such as the Parson's chameleonCalumma parsonii).
Malagasy giant chameleon
Oustalet’s chameleon, Ambalavao, Madagascar. The image shows the different groupings of the front and hind toes. this is a male – Bernard Gagnon, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Origin / Distribution

The Malagasy giant chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti) is endemic to Madagascar, where is the most widespread chameleon species. It has been recorded in all parts of the island at a variety of dry and wet sites at all elevations.. A localized population introduced into Kenya is probably extinct.

Characteristics / Appearance

Considered the longest chameleon in the world (although exceptionally longer adults such as the Parson's chameleonCalumma parsonii). This species reaches lengths close to 70 cm., and is also the second heaviest member of the family (after the Parson's chameleon). However, many specimens found are likely to be adults or smaller subadults. The helmet is high, with a pronounced parietal crest. Rostral ridges are present and extend to the tip of the muzzle, but do not connect. A lateral crest is present but poorly developed.

The most important diagnostic feature is the Crest Ridge, which extends to the vent and consists of 45 or more short, triangular spines with a regular space between them. Ventral and gular ridges are present, but they are not connected to each other.

Malagasy giant chameleon
Oustalet’s chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti) female, Andasibe, Madagascar – Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The coloration in both sexes is usually gray or brown, although females are usually more showy and may show a red coloration on the head and limbs. However, females may be variable with a yellow or mottled coloration, and in some cases can be largely green. The pattern may include a row of four large circles of dark edges along the flanks., although a white line is absent in contrast to the Carpet chameleon (Furcifer Lateralis). There are often indistinct dark vertical bands on the flanks. The absence of a white stripe on the central part of the body is considered diagnostic, but see the warning in Taxonomy below.


The Malagasy giant chameleon belongs to a species complex consisting of three recognized species; However, the variation between populations and the wide distribution of both the Malagasy giant chameleon as of the Warty chameleon (Furcifer verrucosus) suggest that both may represent multiple cryptic species. In a population found by the author during fieldwork, animals assigned to Furcifer oustaleti (a diagnosis subsequently supported by Frank Glaw) consistently showed a small size, unusual coloration and pattern; Unlike in the F. oustaleti Typical, sometimes there was a white stripe in the central part. Since these animals coexist with the F. oustaleti Typical, it is not clear whether they represent a distinct population or species, or if this coloration and pattern is a constant feature of the subadults of this population.


In Madagascar, the Malagasy giant chameleon It is distributed in the coastal lowlands. It is found throughout the island, but its appearance in the eastern part of Madagascar is linked to relatively high temperatures. Being a species well adapted to the warm climate of the savannah, benefits from human changes to the landscape (deforestation). It is said that there is an abandoned population in Kenya (ngong forest, near Nairobi) and that a breeding population also exists in South Florida.


Malagasy giant chameleon
Madagascar giant chameleon in Prague zoo – dragus, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Oustalet’s chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti), also known as Malagasy giant chameleon, leads a mainly sedentary life. Moves very slowly, or does not move at all, for long periods of time, allowing you to conserve energy and stay out of sight of predators, and also be himself a predator. When an insect passes, an unsuspecting lizard or small bird, his very long sucker-tipped tongue is launched to catch him. Language, which is loaded with springs and shoots forward like an arrow bow, can extend to almost twice the length of the entire chameleon.


Until recently chameleons were thought to be totally carnivorous.. Recently, Takahashi (2008) reported the first confirmed case of herbivory in the Furcifer oustaleti, who was observed to select and consume fruits from the bushes Grangeria porosa, Chassalia princei and Malleastrum gracile.


The maximum and average sizes of the layings are unknown, but it is known that females can put at least 61 eggs in a single laying, with a combined weight of 56 g. This registration is from February, but no other information is available on the length of the breeding season.

Gestation lasts a few 40 days and animals reach sexual maturity one year after hatching.

Threats to the species

State of conservation ⓘ

Status Minor Concern ⓘ (UICN)ⓘ

Apart from a small number legally exported as pets, the Malagasy giant chameleon is endemic to Madagascar, where it enjoys a stable population in various habitat types.

They are also found in a number of protected national parks across the country., but they are abundant enough throughout the country to earn conservation status. “least concern“.

The "Malagasy giant chameleon" in captivity

Malagasy giant chameleon
Malagasy giant chameleon(Furcifer oustaleti) male feeding, Anja Community Reserve, Madagascar – Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Chameleons are usually considered easily excitable animals. It is notorious that, in some particularly territorial species, the constant vision of a congener (for example, when two animals can be seen in adjacent terrariums) can lead to stress-related kidney failure and, Therefore, death! However, the Malagasy giant chameleon is a comparatively peaceful and quiet representative of the chameleon clan. Males do not get along with each other, and pregnant females are strictly solitary. But in terrariums large enough (a greenhouse is, of course, more suitable in view of the size of animals), these chameleons can be kept in pairs. The Malagasy giant chameleon it also shows this coldness towards humans.. Even if they are carefully caught in the hand, do not get too excited. The threatening mouth opening, that we know of many other chameleons, it only occurs with the Malagasy giant chameleon if you are provoked a lot. Field researchers say you can normally put a Malagasy giant chameleon on the shoulder; will stay there quietly for hours.

Since the Malagasy giant chameleon is comparatively common, the local population likes to take advantage of the voracity of these chameleons and put them in their gardens, where they eat unwanted animals up to the size of a mouse and thus keep them at bay.

The terrarium

To the Malagasy giant chameleon all the usual principles of chameleon care apply to you. This includes the need for relatively large feeding., What, However, is easy to satisfy for this species, since animals will eat all the usual food bugs, like crickets, domestic crickets, grasshoppers and zofas, as well as young nest mice; in the nature, small birds and reptiles are also eaten.

All insects that serve as food should always be sprinkled with one of the vitamin lime powders available on the market.

The need to drink water, which is also high, makes the care of chameleons always time-consuming, since most animals do not easily learn to drink from bowls. So, chameleons must be given to drink at least every other day with a pipette. However, there are some tricks to avoid it. Many chameleon caregivers use drip drinkers, of which a drop of water drips into a collection container placed underneath at intervals of 1-2 seconds. Chameleons recognize this “rainwater” simulated and drink. The most natural way to give chameleons a drink is by spraying the water that animals collect from the leaves of plants., etc. But this is also labor-intensive and can cause the terrarium to get too wet.. An elegant way is to install an artificial waterfall with a small aquarium pump. However, these systems are somewhat prone to failure and the pumps always break down – as in Murphy's Law- when you least need it, for example, during the holidays. A very clever way to make water move in the drinker and, therefore, that chameleons recognize it, is to aerate the container with an aquarium air pump available on the market. Simply hang the air hose in the bucket and adjust the air supply so that about two air bubbles per second come out of the hose.. A pleasant side effect of this method of watering is that it simultaneously increases the humidity of the terrarium, which should also be around the 70% of relative humidity for the Malagasy giant chameleon during the day; At night, humidity can rise up to 100%.

Due to their natural habits, the Malagasy giant chameleon can be classified as one of the easiest chameleon species to care for, as it does not react immediately with discomfort and subsequent illnesses if it gets too hot in the terrarium.

Daytime temperatures should range between 22 and 28°C, and under the spot they can rise up to 45°C. However, you always have to make sure that the animals can go to a relatively cool and well-ventilated place in the terrarium..


The female puts up 61 eggs after a gestation period of about six weeks. Eggs take between 210 and 280 days to hatch at an incubation temperature of about 28°C. Many breeders use vermiculite as a breeding substrate. Juveniles grow very quickly and reach sexual maturity at one year of age. In general, care and breeding are similar to those known Panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis).

Buy one "Malagasy giant chameleon"

Although they are the largest chameleons, The "Malagasy giant chameleon" not necessarily one of the most expensive. You can find one in specialized stores for prices ranging from 150 – 300 EUR.

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Alternative names:

    1. Malagasy giant chameleon, Oustalet’s chameleon, Malagasy giant chameleon (English).
    2. Caméléon géant de Madagascar, Caméléon d’Oustalet (French).
    3. Riesenchamäleon, Madagaskar-Riesenchamäleon (German).
    4. Camaleão malgaxe gigante, Camaleão do Oustalet (Portuguese).
    5. "Camaleón gigante de Madagascar", Camaleón de Oustalet (español).
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