Yemen Chamaeleon

(Chamaeleo calyptratus)


Yemen Chamaeleon IUCN LEAST CONCERN (LC)


Facts about this animal

With its total length of about 50 cm (up to 60 cm) in males, it is a large chamaeleon. Females however are smaller with the average overall length being just under 30 cm. They have a flattened body meant to mimic a leaf and suited to collect the warmth of the sun. The special characteristic is the casque, which can reach a length of 8 cm in the males. They have a green base color and, depending on mood, this green will range from a bright lime green to a dark olive drab. The green base color is marked with stripes and spots of yellow, brown, and blue. This means that they are communicating via their coloration. Females take on softer colours; shades of green, brown and often times oranges. Yemen chamaeleons are however also masters in camouflage. They can adapt their coloration to almost any background so that they cannot be seen neither by their prey nor their enemies. The feet are specially designed for grasping and climbing limbs and branches. They have a prehensile tail that acts as a “fifth hand” and aids also in climbing. Like other chamaeleons they can turn their eyes 360 degrees independently from each other, allowing them to look in front of and behind themselves at the same time. Yemen chameleons are ambush predators and are capable of lying still for very long periods of time waiting for an unsuspecting insect to wander by. As soon as prey is detected, both eyes fix it and the tongue is thrown out of the mouth with a speed of 22 km/h. The prey sticks to the tip of the tongue and is pulled back into the mouth. While their main diet consists of insects, they will occasionally consume the leaves and blossoms of various plants, in particular in times of drought when water is scarce. They live solitary, males defending vigorously their territory against other males, but accepting a female ready to mate. Copulation lasts 3 to 20 minutes and can be repeated on the following days. For egg-laying, the female digs a whole in the ground. She can produce up to 3 clutches of eggs a year (they may be multiple clutches of eggs, with only one male encounter). Each clutch may contain 20-70 eggs. The eggs usually take 6-9 months to hatch. The newly hatched chamaeleons are 2 to 2,5 cm long.

Did you know?
that, like all chameleons, Yemen Chameleons prefer to drink water that is in drops? They do not always recognize standing water and may dehydrate if that is their only source.


Name (Scientific) Chamaeleo calyptratus
Name (English) Yemen Chamaeleon
Name (French) Caméléon casqué du Yémen
Name (German) Jemenchamaeleon
Name (Spanish) Camaleón velado, Camaleón del Yemen
CITES Status Appendix II
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Chris Kadet



Range Yemen, Saudi-Arabia
Habitat It lives in a variety of habitats from humid-warm with sporadic strong rainfalls to extremely arid with significant temperature changes in a mountain range with peaks up to 3760 m asl. In early spring the temperature is about 30 °C and in the summer it increases to over 40 °C an. In winter this chamaeleon species can even survive occasional nightly frosts, protected in crevices or holes.
Wild population Regarded to be common. However, the restricted range indicates a potential threat by habitat destruction. Over-collecting and increasing use of pesticides may be a threat to some populations. But the population is stable (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 175 reported to ISIS (2007), but this Chameleon is also often kept in captivity by private owners.

In the Zoo

Yemen Chamaeleon


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 41 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by

Why do zoos keep this animal

The Yemen chameleon is not a threatened species. Zoos and aquariums keep it primarily for educational reasons.