Facts about the animal kingdom

How Long Do Chameleons Live?

María Luz Thurman
By María Luz Thurman, Biologist/ornithologist. May 14, 2024
How Long Do Chameleons Live?

Chameleons are known for their rare adaptation which allows them to change their color. This can help them both evade predation and catch their own prey. While many know of this famed character trait, there may be a lot you do not know about chameleons. These lizards are of the order Squamata and the family Chamaeleonidae. Chameleons have great diversity within this family with over 200 known species. Their habitats range from the rainforests of Madagascar to the mountains of East Africa. With such diversity and adaptability, it is difficult to know the average chameleon life expectancy.

AnimalWised attempts to shed some light on the subject by asking how long do chameleons live? We discuss the factors which influence the potential longevity of all chameleons, as well as look at some individual species more closely.

You may also be interested in: How Do Chameleons Reproduce?
  1. How long do pet chameleons live?
  2. How long do wild chameleons live?
  3. Life expectancy of chameleons according to species

How long do pet chameleons live?

Some species of chameleon are kept as pets. Some of the most common are the veiled chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus) and panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis). They are not truly domesticated, but they can be kept in the domestic environment if they are given the right conditions. Some of the reasons we should not keep a chameleon as a pet are the risks of poaching in their wild habitat which encourages illegal wildlife trade.

In general, a pet chameleon can live an average of 5 to 7 years. This will depend on various factors, with the care they are provided being paramount. With a high level of care and some luck, it is possible for a chameleon to live longer. Some species are also known to live longer than others with life expectancy of the Parson's chameleon (Calumma parsonii) in captivity being as much as 14 years.

Factors which can shorten pet chameleon life expectancy include stress, poor diet, poor hygiene, inappropriate living conditions and other negative influences. It is essential that research is carried out before a chameleon is adopted as a pet. This means you will have the right equipment and knowledge to care for the animal and best ensure their longevity.

If you are considering adopting this lizard, it is important you consider whether you are a suitable candidate. You can find out what this entails with our article which asks are chameleons as pets a good idea?

How long do wild chameleons live?

The lifespan of a wild chameleon can vary significantly depending on various important factors. These include their species, environment, predators, food availability and others. In general, most wild chameleon species have a relatively short lifespan compared to pet chameleons. In fact, wild chameleons have relatively short life expectancies compared to other reptiles.

On average, many wild chameleons live between 1 and 5 years, although some species can live longer. Large chameleons such as Parson's chameleon (Calumma parsonii) can live longer than 12 years in the wild. Generally speaking, smaller chameleon species tend to have a shorter lifespan compared to larger species.

Additionally, chameleons face a number of challenges in their natural environment that can affect their lifespan. These include competition for resources, predation and changes in habitat. Chameleons can also be affected by environmental factors such as climate and food availability, very important influences on longevity.

The lifespan of wild chameleons can vary considerably depending on the specific conditions in which they live. Conserving the natural habitat of chameleons and reducing human threats are crucial to ensuring the long-term survival of these fascinating creatures in the wild.

Learn more about how chameleons survive in the wild with our article explaining how chameleons reproduce.

How Long Do Chameleons Live? - How long do wild chameleons live?

Life expectancy of chameleons according to species

Although we have looked at wild and pet chameleons in a general sense, the species of chameleon can greatly influence their life expectancy. Some of these reasons are genetic. Certain species may have a naturally greater longevity than others. Other reasons are due to factors related to their habitat and lifestyle. They include:

  • Predation by other animals
  • Competition for resources
  • Environmental changes

With these factors in mind, we look at some of the life expectancies of various types of chameleon species:

How long do veiled chameleons live?

Also known as the Yemen chameleon or the cone-head chameleon, the veiled chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus) is known for its distinctive casque. This sail-shaped appendage directs up form their head. They are endemic to the Middle Eastern countries of Saudi Arabia and Yemen, hence one of their common names.

Regarding their life expectancy, it has been observed that veiled chameleons can live on average between 5 and 8 years in captivity. There are records of individuals that have reached 10 years and even more in ideal conditions. Their life expectancy can vary significantly depending on factors such as quality of care, diet, environment and individual genetics.

How long do panther chameleons live?

The panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) is a species that primarily lives in Madagascar. It is known for its striking color pattern and its ability to adapt to different environments. With optimal environmental conditions and in nature, it is estimated that these types of chameleons can live between 4 and 6 years.

In captivity, the life expectancy of this species can be considerably longer, with specimens reaching 8 to 10 years. They can live even longer under optimal care conditions.

How long do common chameleons live?

The common chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) has a lifespan in the wild that can vary depending on several factors. These include food availability, climate and predation pressure.

The common chameleon is estimated to live between 1 and 3 years in its natural habitat. However, regional differences have been observed in the longevity of this species. For example, in areas where there are fewer predatory animals and more resources available, common chameleons may live longer. In areas with adverse conditions they may have a shorter lifespan.

In captivity, the lifespan of the common chameleon may be slightly longer than in the wild. With proper care, including a balanced diet, an environment with the correct temperature and humidity parameters, some specimens have reached 5 years or more.

In addition to the chameleon, discover 20+ animals that can change color.

How long to Jackson's chameleons live?

The Jackson's chameleon (Trioceros jacksonii) is known for its distinctive tri-horned head, giving the appearance of a miniature triceratops. Wild Jackson's chameleons are known to live an average of 5-10 years. In captivity, it is a little longer at 8-10 years. As with all of the other types of chameleon, their longevity will depend on predation, habitat quality, resources and other factors.

How long do Namaqua chameleons live?

The Namaqua chameleon (Chamaeleo namaquensis) is a species of chameleon found in the arid and semi-arid regions of southwestern Africa. Specifically, it is endemic to Namibia, as well as parts of Angola and South Africa.

The lifespan of the Namaqua chameleon in the wild is not well documented, but it is estimated that they can live several years in the wild. This is as long as they have access to sufficient resources and do not face significant threats such as predation or habitat loss.

In captivity, their life expectancy may be somewhat shorter than in the wild. With proper care, such as a balanced diet, a suitable environment with controlled temperature and humidity, they can live between 5 and 8 years. They can live even longer in some specific cases.

Now we know about the life expectancy of both wild and captive chameleons according to species, we may want to learn more about other types of lizards. Do just that with our article detailing the different types of leopard gecko morphs.

How Long Do Chameleons Live? - Life expectancy of chameleons according to species

If you want to read similar articles to How Long Do Chameleons Live?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

  • Eckhardt, F., Kraus, C., & Kappeler, P. M. (2019). Life histories, demographies and population dynamics of three sympatric chameleon species (Furcifer spp.) from western Madagascar. Amphibia-Reptilia, 40(1), 41-54.
  • Hernández Navarrete, D. (2018). Age and body growth of Phrynosoma orbiculare (Squmata: Phrynosomatidae) .
  • Stuart-Fox, D. E. V. I., Tolley, K. A., & Herrel, A. (2014). Chameleon behavior and color change. The biology of chameleons, 115-130.
  • Tessa, G., Glaw, F., & Andreone, F. (2017). Longevity in Calumma parsonii, the World's largest chameleon. Experimental Gerontology, 89, 41-44.
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How Long Do Chameleons Live?