The panther chameleon, Furcifer pardalis, is a fairly large chameleon species from Madagascar, Reunion and Mauritius. Male Panther Chameleons reach 21 inches in total length with females reaching approximately 13 inches in total length. Males have a shovel shaped rostral process on the nose which is less developed in females. Their head bears a low casque, when compared to male veiled chameleons, that is formed equally well in either sex. Males are distinguished from females by their larger size, brighter colors and pattern and hemipenal bulge.
In Madagascar, Panther Chameleons inhabit coastal areas and nearby islands on the Northern half of the island. On the eastern side of the island, the species ranges from Diego Suarez at the northern tip of the island southward to the area around the town of Tamatave. On the western side of the island, the species ranges from Diego Suarez south to the area around the town of Ankaramy.
Female Panther Chameleons are generally fairly drab in coloration across their range without significant differentiation between locales making it difficult to distinguish between locales in females. Male Panther Chameleons, on the other hand are extremely variable across their range and this variation in coloration and pattern is exhibited in specific ways at different locations. The coloration and pattern typically expressed at different places are often named for the towns or islands they occur at. These names are referred to as locale names and are used to describe where the animal’s originated and as a result, what coloration and pattern they should show. While each locale has a certain amount of variation within specimens from that area, many can be easily recognized and described. The following are some of the locales of Panther Chameleons with description of the color and pattern typically shown by males:
A locality from northwest Madagascar. Male Ambanja Panther Chameleon specimens are known to show lots of blue, green and red. Their body is typically green to blue with either red or blue barring. Body coloration can also show yellow and the eyes typically have red radiation patterns.
A coastal peninsula locality slightly to the North of Ambanja in northwest Madagascar, which is occasionally marketed by the designer names “Turquoise Blue” or “Blue Diamond” Panther Chameleons. Male Ambato Panther Chameleons are known to show high blue, white, maroon and yellow. Their body is typically blue to white with maroon barring. Their eye turrets and around the rear of the jaw are typically yellow. Their eye turrets do not show red radiation patterns and the body lacks red spots like that seen in Ambanja and Nosy Faly males respectively.
A locality from northwest Madagascar between Ambanja and Diego Suarez. Ambilobe Panther Chameleons are occasionally referred to as Sirama Panther Chameleons after the neighboring town as well as by the designer name “Picasso” Panther Chameleons. This locale is generally divided into two main color patterns – Blue-bar Ambilobes and Red-bar Ambilobes. The overall color combinations are quite variable and consist of green, blue, yellow, orange and red but the red- and blue-bar ambilobes are divided based on the primary color of their bars.
A coastal locality from northeast Madagascar south of Sambava. This locale exhibits a rest coloration of green and maroon and display coloration of orange with green or darker red-orange colored bars.
A locality from the mainland of northwest Madagascar near the islands of Nosy Mitsio and Nosy Ankarea. Specimens from this locale tend to look like a cross between males from Ambilobe and Nosy Mitsio. Display coloration tends to be a yellow base coloration with green bars and red eye turrets. Red barring in the gular and ventral areas are also known.
A locality from northeast Madagascar a little inland from Sambava. Animals from this locale are very similar in color and pattern to those individuals from Sambava but are regarded as typically slightly more vibrant in their coloration. A “U bar” on the flanks and coloration of green, orange, red and yellow with dark pattern lines and a blue tint to the lateral line are typical of male Andapa Panther Chameleons.
A locality from near the southern most extent of the species’ range in the northwest of Madagascar which are often marketed by the designer name “Pink Panther”. Male Ankaramy Panther Chameleons are a vibrant pink coloration with light blue crests. The lateral line down the flanks of males is solid down the length of the body without being broken up by the barring and is colored white. The lips are also white and the body can be speckled with darker pink spots. Gray bars are occasionally seen during some display patterns.
A locality from the northwest of Madagascar, Ankify is located on a peninsula slightly to the west of Ambanja and south of the island of Nosy Be. Males from this locale are predominantly green with a lot of red speckling and blue bars. The green background coloration is known to turn yellow.
Also referred to by the Malagasy name Antsiranana, this town is at the northern most tip of Madagascar. This locale is similar to Sambavas but rather then having a “U bar” typically have a “V bar”. The body coloration is green with maroon-red colored bars and eye turrets. In display, the green background tends to show more orange, yellow and red colors.
A locale between Diego Suarez and Ankarana in north-northwest Madagascar. This locale has a base color of green with maroon-red bars and a red gular region.
This locale is located at the northern tip of the bay created by the Masoala peninsula on the east coast of Madagascar. Males from this locale have a yellow-green base coloration which changes to a orange-red color during display. This locale is very similar to specimens from Tamatave but show more orange then red in display.
Masoala is a large peninsula on the east coast of Madagascar South of Sambava. The peninsula forms a bay with the town of Maroantsetra at its northern most tip. Animals from the Masoala peninsula look similar to animals from Maroantsetra and Sambava with attributes from both locales. The ventral portion of the body tends to show coloration and patterning like that of Sambavas with yellow background and orange bars. The dorsal portion of the body tends to look more like Maroantsetras with yellow-green background color.
An island locale off the northwest coast of Madagascar near Nosy Mitsio. This locale shows a blue-green background coloration and red eye turrets. Thin red bars on the jaw. Display coloration is overall yellow with orange-red eye turrets and bars. This locale is very similar to Nosy Mitsio but tends to show more orange-red barring during display on the flanks and along the dorsal crest.
An island locality of the coast of northwest Madagascar. Male Nosy Be Panther Chameleons are known to show green, blue, yellow and red coloration. The body is typically green with darker green bars. The rear of the mouth tends to be yellow. The eye turrets show red radiation patterns and red speckling is typically present over the head and body. Some animals are known to be blue with blue barring rather then green with green barring but these individuals also show the red radiations, speckling and yellow on the lips.
An island locality off the coast of Eastern Madagascar, which is occasionally marketed by the English name for the island “St. Marie”. Male Nosy Boraha Panther Chameleons are known to have high concentrations of gray or silver and red coloration. Their bodies typically show gray or silver with varying degrees of red barring.
An island locality just off the coast of Ambato to the North of Ambanja on the northwest coast of Madagascar, which is occasionally marketed by the designer name “Oorana Mena” meaning “red rain”. Male Nosy Faly Panther Chameleons are known to show blue, white, red and yellow colors. Their body is typically blue with white barring and red spots around the body. Their eye turrets and the rear of the jaw are typically yellow in coloration.
An island locality off the coast of northwest Madagascar between Diego Suarez and Ambilobe, which is occasionally marketed by the designer name “Soabana” or “Mafana”. In rest coloration, male Nosy Mitsio Panther Chameleons are typically all green in coloration with an orange to red eye turret. As they color up, their body coloration goes yellow with green barring, an orange to red eye turret and occasionally showing some orange in the gular area. This locale is very similar to Nosy Ankarea but has less orange and red on the flanks and dorsal crest during display.
An island locality off the coast of Northwest Madagascar close to Ankaramy. Male Nosy Radama Panther Chameleons are very similar in coloration to Ankaramy Panther Chameleons except their body coloration appears to be more reddish then pink. Their crests are also light blue and their lateral line down the flanks are similarly solid, without breaks and white in coloration.
An island nation locality far off the eastern coast of Madagascar. Male Reunion Island Panther Chameleons are very similar to Nosy Be Panther Chameleons with green and red coloration. The body and barring in this locale is typically green in coloration with red speckling around the face and body.
A locale from northeast Madagascar. This locale is very similar in color and pattern to those of Andapa. Male Sambava Panther Chameleons are often characterized by the presence of a “U bar” rather than the typical “Y or V bar” on the flanks. Coloration typically includes green, yellow, orange and red with dark pattern lines and occasionally a bluish lateral line.
A locale from the east coast of Madagascar. This locale has a green base coloration that turns red when in display with white speckling. Tamatave males are very similar to specimens from Maroantsetra but with more red then orange.
When combined with their brilliant coloration and pattern and their hardy nature, the Panther Chameleon has become a popular pet and sought after display animal. Additionally, they are an excellent starter chameleon species for those interested in these amazing animals and their unusual attributes such as color change and ballistic tongue projection while feeding.
As one of the hardiest chameleon species, Panther Chameleons do well in captive environments with consistent care. Adult males are ideally housed in screen enclosures around 4′ tall x 2’x2′, although they can tolerate smaller enclosures and females require less space. Screen enclosures allow for required airflow and space, and are a necessity to help your Panther Chameleon thrive. With a live plant, such as a Ficus or Schefflera, and various horizontal branches, the interior of a Panther Chameleon’s enclosure is quite simple to design and setup as Panther Chameleons do best without substrate or standing water sources in their enclosure. Water is instead provided through daily misting of the enclosure and plants and they then lap the water off of the leaves in their enclosures.
Lighting for the Panther Chameleon is fairly inexpensive and simple to set up. A UVB emitting fluorescent tube light, such as the Zoo Med Reptisun 5.0, and a separate standard incandescent light bulb for heat are all that is required. With both on for 12 hours and no additional heat or light source for the remaining time, night temperature drops are actually appreciated by Panther Chameleons as apposed to many other reptile pets.
Panther Chameleons grow quite rapidly on a diet of appropriately sized crickets fed a simple cricket diet and alternatingly dusted with a calcium supplement. Adults will frequently become used to feeding from their owner’s fingers with their long tongue which projects itself out of their mouth at high speeds and contacts their prey with their sticky tongue.
If provided with a proper enclosure and consistent care, the Panther Chameleon is a striking, beautiful and excellent hardy captive which is excellent for the first time chameleon owner. Their relatively simple care requirements, impressive features, incredible color and odd behavior make them an interesting and conversation starting display for any dedicated enthusiast.