Chameleons are a fascinating and diverse family of reptiles, with roughly 150 or more species living in the wild. Due to the popularity of these exotic pets, it’s no surprise that some rare breeds in the market can command a hefty price tag.
Some of the most expensive chameleons are Parson’s chameleons, which can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000, and Panther chameleons, with some reaching up to $1,000.
In this article, we’ll discuss the most expensive chameleons in the world – from their unique traits to their surprising prices. Let’s explore why some variants are worth more than others and what factors affect how much chameleons cost in the first place.
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How Much Do Chameleons Cost?
Before we talk about the most expensive chameleons in the world, it’s important to know how much chameleons typically cost in the first place.
If you’re going to your local pet store or seller, you can expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $100 for a single chameleon. The most you’ll pay is usually between $150 and $200.
Of course, this can vary depending on various factors. For instance, breed and rarity can change the price significantly, and so can sex.
In addition to this, even chameleons from the same species may cost differently due to their colors and patterns. Certain color morphs can be difficult to find and hence, cost a lot more than the typical ones sold in stores. We’ll discuss these factors in more detail below.
3 Most Expensive Chameleons In The World
Now that you have an idea of the price range for the average cham, let’s take a look at some of the most expensive chameleons in the world, going from the bottom to the top.
Jackson’s chameleons are pretty affordable compared to the other species on this short list, but it’s still more costly than average.
A Jackson’s chameleon typically costs anywhere from $50 to $250. As with other chameleons, older males cost the most, with some reaching over $500.
Jackson’s chameleons originate from East Africa, mainly Kenya, and Tanzania. They’re rather territorial and can be quite aggressive, so they shouldn’t be kept with other animals, including other chameleons.
Male Jackson’s chameleons have three horns – two on the head and one on the nose – while females don’t have them.
Panther chameleons are quite popular among reptile enthusiasts because of their impressive colors and ease of care. They can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,000.
Three of the most expensive variants of panther chameleons are Nosy Be, Ambilobe, and Ambanja. Prices start at $700 for male subadults, and this can still go up depending on the color intensity of the individual.
Some sellers also offer combination panthers, basically panthers that are bred from various types of panther chameleons.
These cross-bred pathers, simply known as cross panthers or designer cross panthers, cost more because they have rare color combinations, and they tend to be more vibrant than regular panthers.
Not only are these big lizards adept at adjusting to their environment, but they’re also pretty tolerant of human interactions. This makes them perfect for any beginner who is looking to form an intimate bond with their pet.
In terms of price, nothing beats the Parson’s chameleon (Calumma parsonii). These huge, impressive reptiles can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000, although they can be sold for much, much more. One pair was reportedly sold for $14,000.
Parson’s chameleons are endemic to Madagascar and can grow up to 28 inches in length, massive compared to other chams.
The main reason why they’re expensive is that they’re hard to come by. Madagascar often has quotas limiting how many animals can be caught and exported, so even if you find someone willing to source Parson’s chameleons, they may not be allowed to sell them outside the country.
The thing is, most of the specimens found in the pet trade are wild-caught because it’s extremely difficult to breed them. It’s not that they’re aggressive – in fact, they’re quite docile.
It’s just that they have very specific needs, which not many breeders are equipped to meet. One of these is the extremely long incubation period for their eggs.
Chameleon eggs can have a hibernation period referred to as a “diapause,” which means there’s a stretch of time where nothing happens inside the egg – no development, no movement, no growth.
Parson’s chameleons can undergo multiple diapauses. Due to this, each breeding period can take as long as 1.5 to a whopping 2 years, and even then, breeders can’t be sure that the eggs will even be fertile.
Factors That Affect The Price Of Chameleons
As mentioned above, there are many factors that go into determining the cost of a chameleon.
The species of the chameleon is probably the biggest factor. Certain species are simply more expensive than others. Usually, it’s because they’re rarer or harder to acquire, but sometimes, it can also be because of demand.
The age of the chameleon you’re buying also affects its price. Juveniles and subadult chameleons will almost always be more expensive than chameleons in other life stages.
Baby chameleons are usually cheaper because they haven’t matured yet, which means their colors and patterns may not yet be final.
Hatchlings, in particular, cost the least since the buyer will be shouldering the huge risk of them potentially not making it out of babyhood.
Adult chameleons are also less expensive than juvenile and subadult chameleons because they’re already fully grown. Older adults are cheaper than younger adults since you’re getting a cham with a “reduced” lifespan, so to speak.
Chameleon genders also have an effect on pricing. Generally, males cost more than females because of the “ornamental” value that comes with their dimorphic differences.
For example, a male panther chameleon, with its vivid colors and attractive crests, will always be more expensive than a female panther with its relatively muted tones.
Other features that are considered more attractive include bigger horns, brighter colors, and a bigger size. These characteristics usually command higher prices.
Additionally, female chameleons tend to have worse health than male chams. Female chameleons lay eggs regularly throughout their lives, which can cause extra strain on their bodies and shorten their lifespan – 5 to 7 years for females as opposed to 8 to 10 years for males.
This egg production also leads to health issues for many female chameleons since most of their energy is allocated towards laying eggs, leaving little for their own upkeep.
That said, it’s important to note that this is a natural process, and it’s not the chameleon’s fault.
The color intensity of the chameleon greatly affects its price. Generally, the brighter and more intense the colors are on a particular individual, the higher it’s priced.
Also, certain combinations or intensities of colors are more sought after than others. Chameleons that come from bloodlines known to have higher-than-average intensity and vividness of color will almost always be more expensive than the typical chameleon.
This is why “designer” panthers, which are crossbred, cost even more than regular panthers: their color combinations can’t usually be seen anywhere else.
The price of a chameleon will also vary depending on whether it is captive-bred or wild-caught. As the limitations on the number of chameleons taken from their natural habitat continue to grow, so do the prices of wild-caught species.
On that note, though, we recommend getting captive-bred chams and not wild-caught chams. Captive-bred chameleons are not only more expensive, they’re also healthier, friendlier, and easier to care for because they’re already used to a captive environment.
Ethically speaking, it’s also better to leave wild chameleons alone and let them live out their lives in their natural habitat.
Finally, the seller you’re buying from will also affect the price of your chameleon.
Pet stores and reptile shows tend to charge higher prices than online or private breeders because they have higher overhead costs. However, they’re the best places to go if you want the widest selection of chameleons and always-available customer service.
On the other hand, private breeders usually have lower prices and more personalized customer service, but they may not always be available or have the type of chameleon you’re looking for.
In conclusion, many factors affect the price of chameleons, even those that are already deemed expensive.
Regardless of what chameleon species you want to buy, knowing these factors will give you an advantage in finding the best deal for your new pet!