Cape Dwarf Chameleon
Cape Dwarf Chameleon (Bradypodion pumilum) Care Sheet
Cape Dwarf Chameleon
Dwarf chameleons are a group of small chameleons from the genus Bradypodion. They are endemic to Southern Africa. These chameleons are quite rare due to the fact that their populations are very localized (in most cases, a species' distribution is just a single town). Dwarf chameleons are viviparous, which means they give birth to live young. Cape dwarfs are one of the largest of the genus, averaging with a snout to vent length (svl) of around 2.5 to 3 inches.
Dwarfs In Captivity
In my experience, the cape dwarf makes the most perfect chameleon for captivity for a few reasons: Unlike other chameleons, they are not as territorial. In the wild, they are sometimes found in groups of 5 or 6 within a single bush. As I have stated, they give birth to live young. They are extremely prolific and are super easy to breed and have about 2 or three clutches of 5-15 babies a year! They are small chameleons, so you can house a group of them together in an enclosure that isn't massive in size! Also, due to their size, they don't eat as much as other large chameleons.
As with 90% of chameleons, they prefer not to be handled and left to themselves. They can tolerate a bit of handling but monitor their color as this is a good indication as to whether they are stressed out or not. If feeling threatened, they will darken themselves and hiss at you flaring their brightly colored interstitial skin in the gular region. If you notice your chameleon is darkening at all, place it back in the enclosure. Chameleons can easily succumb to stress. These guys all have different characters so you'll have to see for yourself. I have one that always comes towards me and climbs onto my hand. I thinks he just wants food though!
As with all chameleons, full spectrum lighting is essential. If you cannot provide this, then keeping a chameleon is not an option for you. Where I live, outside temps are good all year round so I keep mine outside in a custom built enclosure. You could keep yours outside just for the summer if needed and then bring them in for the winter.
I made a mesh enclosure about 5ft high with a square base of 2ft x 2ft. You could make it smaller according to the amount of chameleons you are housing. I keep a trio in that enclosure. It is always a good idea to not house more than one male together because they could compete for the females during mating season.
I planted a ficus inside which provides enough shade and hiding space, and also keeps water droplets nicely on the leaves. Make sure they have sunlight on their tree; they like to bask first thing in the morning and in the late afternoon.
If you keep yours indoors, have a basking light set up at the top of the enclosure and a UVB light. This is important! Also provide quite a lot of vegetation so they feel secure and can be alone if they want. Give them a 12 hour lighting cycle.
Chameleons need lots of water; you can provide this by misting their enclosure for about a minute. They will drink off the leaves and branches. Do this 2 or 3 times a day. You can also install a mist system that does this for you or even build one.
Drip Watering System
These chameleons are purely insectivorous. Give them crickets, meal worms, wax worms, flies, silk worms and their moths. Dust the food items with calcium powder. Food items should be no bigger than the size of the top of their heads. They do prefer smaller items though.
You can hook a plastic food bowl to the side of the enclosure. They will come and eat straight out of this. I prefer to feed them crickets by hand so I know they are all getting food. (It is also quite cool to see them using their long tongues to catch stuff from your fingers.) If they are nervous to do this in the beginning, just be patient.
Cape dwarf chameleons are extremely easy to breed. If your conditions are all correct and they are healthy, you'll have babies in no time. You really don't have to do anything to encourage breeding. Just make sure you have a male and a female. Sexing is quite difficult; males are generally more brightly colored and have a more pronounced casque (crest) on their head. Females are bigger than males.
If your female is gravid, you'll notice her getting extremely bloated. Isolate that female nearer to giving birth because other adults will eat the babies because they are so small! As I have said, they give birth to live young. Litter size varies anywhere from 5-15 babies. They usually have 2 litters a year. Summer litters are generally larger. The babies are brown and gradually get their green color at about 5 to 6 months. Growth is very fast and they can be sexually mature in a year.
These are delightful little chameleons and are quite simple to care for. If you are not prepared for the care of newborns I would really advise not keeping male and females together. You will definitely end up with a gravid female and soon 12 hungry little demanding newborns.