Chameleons are known for many things. Some see them as reptiles with fun, camouflaging bodies, while others firmly believe they are dangerous.
But with all of this, some Kenyans have adopted them and are making a lot of money growing them for commercial purposes.
The successes of some of the early adopters of this less popular business prove that farmers make a lot of money by selling chameleons.
Chameleon breeding in Kenya
In 2014, Vincent Buyangu, Marketing Director of Buyangu Farm, told a local publication that a chameleon sold for up to Ksh2,000. However, the fortunes of this business have since changed, with reptiles costing up to Ksh7,000.
“A chameleon brings in around 2,000 Ksh. If a farmer raises 500 chameleons per year, he or she will probably earn 1,000,000 Ksh per year, ”Buyangu said in a previous interview.
A self-help ecotourism group from Kirinyaga has also ventured into this lucrative agriculture. According to their first stories, this new agriculture is well paid.
The demand for chameleons has skyrocketed lately. Some buy them to keep them as pets, especially in countries like the United States, Spain, Portugal, Japan, the Netherlands, England, South Korea, and Germany.
In Kenya, the market is not at the same level as other countries such as Tanzania and Madagascar which are already recognized in international markets.
Statistics published by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) revealed that Madagascar exports up to five different species of chameleons, or up to 66,500.
But to venture into this well-paid form of farming, obtaining a permit from Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) is mandatory. This is because chameleons are protected by law.
Another important factor is compliance with international laws governing the import of chameleons.
Farmed chameleons are now the most preferred option for imports. This was informed by strict international wildlife conservation and management regulations aimed at discouraging the importation of captured chameleons.
International wildlife laws only allow the export of young chameleons, not native ones.
Mainly sold breeds
The most common breed in Kenya is the Jackson’s Chameleon. Others are pardalis, calyptratus, quadricornis, melleri, deremensis, lateralis, gracilis, dilepis and even the tiny ellioti.
Adult male Jackson’s Chameleons are generally clear and emerald green, with a yellow throat, shoulders, flanks, and scales.
Males have three horns and usually reach a length of 25 to 30 cm. Females are 5 cm shorter than males.
Requirements for breeding chameleons
The main consideration is caging as they don’t strive well in the cold season. They need a lot of ventilation, so a screen speaker is most ideal.
Light is also necessary as it gives them warmth as it is essential for both their physical and mental health.
Chameleons drink water from the leaves or as it collects in their bodies.
A well balanced diet is necessary. They usually feed on insects, so an adequate supply of insects is necessary.
The young should be kept separate from the older ones, as most male chameleons tend to have cannibalistic traits.
They reach maturity after two years. But after mating, they give birth to 12-40 young after three months.
The main market is in Europe, Asia and America. They are usually sold in pairs. Farmed chameleons are sold when they are F1 generation.
About 2,000 chameleons are sold each year in the local market in Kenya.
Some people used them to decorate their homes. The local market faces other marketing challenges related to beliefs and attitudes towards the chameleon.
To export them, farmers must obtain legal export and import papers from KWS and international organizations.
Male Jackson Chameleon