Wild fat cham!


Chameleon Enthusiast
Credit: Petr Necas


The answer is YES, though it is a very rare occurrence. As a rule, chameleons DO NOT get fat.

Which species do NOT get fat?
There are basically two groups of chameleon species that do not get fat as a rule:

I. CIRCUMANNUAL ABUNDANCE: Chameleons from regions, offering all the year enough food (montane regions, tropical lowland rainforests),

those species, that are active only in times, when food is abundant and the period with lack of food they either:
1. HIBERNATE - means stay in a limited movement phase, hidden, with metabolism lowered to minimum and basically sleeping (e.g. South African Bradypodion species, the circummediterranean European chameleon, Chamaeleo chamaeleon) or
2. BRUMATE - means stay in a soecific inactive phase in the coldest months of the year (e.g. Calumma parsonii)
3. AESTIVATE - means escape heat and drought while hiding under stones, in holes, crevices or dug in loose substrate to come out at the first rain to come (e.g. some populations of the savanna or desert species like Chamaeleo dilepis, namaquensis; Rieppeleon kerstenii) or
4. DIE (as demonstrated for Furcifer labordi and Chamaeleo calyptratus) due to harsh climate and/or predation and survive as a population and species in the form of eggs incubating in the soil and waiting for the next rainy season to hatch

Chameleon species of these groups as a rule do not get fat in the wild, because they either do not need to collect reserves fir bad times as there are none (group I) or they invest everything to growth, survival and reproduction and have no time to overeat (group II)

There is a third group of chameleons,

Chameleon species of this group have as a rule a big reproductive potential (lay tents of eggs) and are ecologically plastic - means they can adapt to life under various conditions and even invade new areas (e.g. Furcifer pardalis).

These species, plus species from the Group II, subgroup 4 can under corcumstances, when the food is unusually nitritious (a plague of some moths or butterfiles, of breeding ants or bees) or extremely abundant (simply die local circumstances e.g. around a lake or cadaver of a mammal attracting many insects), can as an rare exception of the rule temporarily overeat and get fat, simply following their programming: eat as much as possible...

I myself have met a wild fat chameleon in the 30+ years of my life with chameleons only once: today...
It was a huge male of Furcifer pardalis in Nosy Be, found in rural
area used fir agriculture... what he ate is a secret, but he showed allmsigns of ligjt but evident onesity
Body heavy habitus
Swollen extremities
Big belly
Bulged casqe and cheeks



Avid Member
Ive often wondered if brumation plays a roll in the life span of certain specie of chameleon such as veiled the ones that would be more inclined to hibernate. Just as a vague example I can keep VFTs indoor all year round for a about 2 years with them never going into a state of dormancy but they die young. If left outside to experience the cold and slow down they seem to live and reproduce forever, forever being 12 years lol my oldest trap.. its said they can live to be 20yrs.


Chameleon Enthusiast
Things to consider when putting a reptile into hibernation for the cold months...(brimstone isn't quite the same in my mind)..
Is its body in good enough condition that it can make it through the hibernation period taking both health and amount of fat stored, etc into considerstion?

Is the area it's going to be hibernating in suitable...insulated enough from the cold, etc.

There are lots of reptiles that go into hibernation that don't make it out when the cold spell is over.

There are lots of reptiles that can go without hibernating (that would normally hibernate in the wild) without any major issues. It can however have an affect on reproduction in at least some species.
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