Image: Under License from Jumpstory

Jackson's Chameleon Fact File

Trioceros jacksonii








Wild - 10 years

Captive - 10 years



Insects, Leaves, Berries

conservation status



A Lizard with a bit of Rhino!

Jackson's chameleon looks like a mix between a lizard and a rhinoceros with three horns protruding from the top of their head. These horns are only present in the males. Males may use their horns during combat against one another.

This species is an omnivore. Their diet is primarily made up of small animals such as insects, lizards and amphibians. They have also been seen to feed on smaller chameleons. This is supplemented with leaves and berries. When they need water they will obtain this by drinking off of leaves.

These animals are able to vary the colour of their skin. While commonly believed to be for camouflage this is primarily used to communicate. When threatened they will change their coloration to bright patterns which serve as a warning to the attacker to move away.


What does Jackson's Chameleon look like?

Male Jackson’s chameleons are most noticeable due to the brown horns which protrude from the face. One emerges from the nose and is known as the rostral horn while two others above the eyes are called preocular horns. These are absent in females.

Most of the time Jackson's chameleons are green. As with all chameleons though they can change colour as a result of their situation at that time. When distressed they may turn black. Their lip is yellow as is the base of the eye. The interior of their mouth is pink. Their digits have yellowish claws at their end.

The tongue may measure up to 14cm (5.5in). It has a club shaped end which is coated with saliva allowing it to stick to prey and catch it.

Their eyes are able to swivel between 90 and 180 degrees. They can move independently of each other. At the end of the body is a long tail.

Female Jackson’s chameleons are smaller than males. Males measure up to 38cm (15in) while females only reach 25cm (10in). They weigh 90-150g (3.2-5.3oz).


How does Jackson's Chameleon survive in its habitat?

At the end of the body is a strong tail off of which they can support their entire body weight.


What does Jackson's Chameleon eat?

Jackson’s chameleons are omnivores. Most of their die is small animals such as ants, butterflies, caterpillars, slugs, arthropods, snails, small birds, worms, lizards, geckos, amphibians and even smaller chameleons. On occasion they have also been known to eat leaves and berries from some trees.

Their water comes from drinking rain droplets off of leaves.

When hunting they will lay in wait scanning with their eyes for potential prey. When it is detected both eyes lock on it, determine how far away it is and then catch it using their sticky tongue.


Where do you find Jackson's Chameleon?

Africa is the native home of the Jackson’s chameleon. Here they can be found throughout Kenya and Tanzania. This species has also been introduced onto some Hawaiian islands.


Where can Jackson's Chameleon survive?

Jackson’s chameleons make their home in woodland and forests. They will on occasion wander into woodlands nestled amongst suburbs. Coffee plantations have also been noted as a place where they will live.

Credit: Under License from Jumpstory


How does Jackson's Chameleon produce its young?

Jackson’s chameleons are able to mate year round.

Males who win mating rights seek out a female. When one is found they move their eyes quickly, change colours and sway gently to woo her. In the event she rejects, which is shown through mouth gaping and hissing, he deflates and moves on. If she accepts she will turn brown. He will mate with her and after 15 minutes he will either leave or she will change colour and make him go.

Females will go on to mate with a number of males over the course of 11 days. Once a female has young inside of her she will begin to expose her eggs (which grow inside of her) to the sun for a period of time each day.

190 days after this mating process is carried out 8-30 live young will born. Immediately these are on their own with no help from mum. When the young are born they come out in a gelatinous egg sac and remain asleep until they touch the branch on which the mother deposits them. This stimulates them to wake and they then break out of the egg. She will then move some distance away to deposit the next young chameleon.

Young Jackson’s chameleons are coloured a light to dark brown. They are patterned with white spots, dots and lines. On their tail are brown rings. This pattern serves to camouflage them in the treetops. It takes around four months for them to change to the green adult colouration.

20 days after the young are born she is ready to mate again.

Sexual maturity is reached at nine to ten months old.


What does Jackson's Chameleon do during its day?

Male Jackson’s chameleons will defend their territory by changing to brighter colours, puffing up their body and turning sideways so they look larger. They will also hiss and sway from side to side. If this does not make their attacker go away they will then joust using their horns. This is generally more for show rather than to harm an individual. The loser will deflate, change colour and then walk away.

Predators and Threats

What stops Jackson's Chameleon from surviving and thriving?

Young chameleons are preyed upon by carnivorous spiders, birds, snakes and adult chameleons. Adults are hunted by snakes, monkeys, shrews, bird, parasites and spiders.

Quick facts

This species is also referred to as the three-horned chameleon.


Tolley, K. 2014. Trioceros jacksonii (errata version published in 2017). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T172531A109922526. Downloaded on 26 April 2020.

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