Panther Chameleon

Furcifer pardalis

The panther chameleon is native to the forested ecosystems of Madagascar and it has been introduced to the islands of Réunion and Mauritius. They feed primarily on insects. Male panther chameleons come in a range of vibrant colors and grow up to 20 inches long. Females are more plain and only half the size of males. Panther chameleons can live up to 10 years in captivity; however, if bred often, females live only 2 to 3 years because of the stress of egg laying. Females lay 10 to 40 eggs per clutch; the number of eggs a female lays depends on her level of nutrition during the period when she is developing eggs.

Did You Know?

The Panther Chameleon is native to the forested ecosystems of Madagascar.


Does the harvest for wildlife trade or captive breeding of this species harm wild populations?

Some Cause for Concern

Panther chameleons are locally abundant but large numbers of wild individuals are collected for the pet trade. International trade of panther chameleons is regulated, and current harvest levels are thought to be sustainable, but if the demand for these chameleons increases, local populations could be at risk.

It is important to realize that there is a large and growing trade in individuals bred in the USA and Europe for the pet trade.  The demand for wild-caught animals could be reduced if people made sure to only purchase captive-bred stock.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Ensure that your chameleon is captive-bred from domesticated animals. Only acquire a pet from a reputable breeder or seller to ensure that you are not buying a wild-caught and/or imported animal.

Invasion Threat

Does the release or escape of this species into the wild harm the environment and/or economy?

Some Cause for Concern

Panther chameleons have established self-sustaining populations outside of their native range on the islands of Réunion and Mauritius, and two other exotic chameleons have become established on Hawaii.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before obtaining any non-traditional pet, check that it is legal to own one in your state of residence and check for permitting requirements. Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable breeder or dealer to ensure that you are not buying an illegally imported or wild-caught animal. Always keep your pet inside a safe and secure enclosure. Never release a pet into the wild.

Ease of Care

Does harvest, captive breeding, transport, or being kept as a pet harm individual animals?

Significant Cause for Concern

Ease of care of many non-traditional pets depends on the individual owner’s years of experience and knowledge caring for a particular species. For the purposes of this website, we have geared information toward the benefit of the beginner.

Chameleons are very difficult and costly to maintain in captivity and therefore are not good pets for beginners. Panther chameleons are easily stressed, and are very particular in their habits.  They require either hand watering each day, or expensive spray systems.  They do not like to be handled, and are a particularly poor-choice pet for children.  Handling panther chameleons results in significant stress and often results in sickness or shortened lifespan.

Panther chameleons require precise conditions and foods that mimic their natural rain forest environment. Providing the correct type of light (in the UV range) and dietary vitamins are the most significant challenges. Also, panther chameleons can be very aggressive, so they must be kept visually and physically separated from one another.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

PetWatch recommends an alternative captive-bred species to panther chameleons – particularly for children. Before acquiring a pet chameleon, be sure to research its specific care requirements. 

Health Threat

Does this animal pose a health risk to native wildlife, humans, livestock and agriculture?

Some Cause for Concern

Like most captive reptiles, chameleons are known carriers of Salmonella. If ingested by humans, Salmonella can cause vomiting and diarrhea; these symptoms are usually mild in healthy adults but can be fatal to infants and young children, or anyone with a compromised immune system. It is important to wash hands before and after handling an animal. Salmonella can be transmitted from exotic pets to any member of a household, even those who do not handle the pet directly.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Reptiles often do not show signs of illness when harboring Salmonella. Regardless, when purchasing a pet ask the seller if the animal has been checked by a veterinarian and obtain a list of any medical treatments the animal has received. Always wash your hands after handling a reptile.

EcoHealth Alliance works at the intersection of ecosystem, animal and human health through local conservation programs and develops global health solutions to emerging diseases.
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