Enclosure status
IUCN status
Least Concern
Scientific name
Furcifer pardalis
Forest and shrubland

Chameleon facts

The top layer of a chameleon’s skin contains two layers of special cells called iridophores, which, in turn, contain pigments and nanocrystals. These nanocrystals are in a variety of sizes, shapes and arrangements and the chameleon can alter these arrangements to reflect light in different ways, enabling them to change colour. They control the nanocrystal arrangement by relaxing or exciting the skin, so that the crystals move closer together or further apart. 

People think that chameleons change colour for camouflage, and whilst that is sometimes true, the primary role of their incredible colour-changing ability is associated with social signalling and communication, or as a response to changes in their environment, like temperature or humidity. 

Chameleon tongue

A chameleon’s tongue is also highly modified. They can project their tongues to distances longer than their body-length. They also have a very wide field of vision, thanks to their unusual eyes, which feature fused upper and lower eyelids containing a small aperture which the pupils of their eyes can see through. Each eye can pivot and focus independently, allowing them to view two objects simultaneously. 

Chameleon eye close up
Panther chameleon shooting tongue to capture insect prey

Baby panther chameleon 

A tiny 3cm-long baby chameleon hatched at the Zoo and was photographed by Zookeepers perching on pencils and scampering around. Baby chameleons can only change its hue from dark brown to light brown at night-time, but as they grow into an adult they develop their famous colour changing properties. 

Conservation at the Zoo

Panther chameleon red bright colours
Panther chameleon capturing insect with long tongue

Our aquarium

Spotted hillstream loach grazing on a rock
Ten of the planet’s most extreme aquatic habitats

Fish and reptiles living together

Our Aquarium is a round-the-world journey through ten of the planet’s most extreme aquatic habitats, and a base for our leading conservation work protecting life everywhere.

Panther chameleon threats

Habitat degradation, which can be caused by climate change is becoming a threat. Although they are the in demand Malagasy chameleon in the international pet trade, current levels of harvesting are sustainable. 

Facts about our animals

  • African dwarf crocodile at Whipsnade Zoo
    Osteolaemus tetraspis

    African dwarf crocodile

    The world's smallest crocodile,

  • Burrowing owl perched on a person's hand
    Athene cunicularia

    Burrowing owl

    The only owl species in the world to live underground, our burrowing animals show off their unique behaviours at Birds of the World.

  • Aardvark in Africa
    Orycteropus afer


    Aardvarks are nocturnal and solitary animals, and their burrows provide vital homes for many endangered species.

  • Two Marabou storks 'the undertaker bird' at Whipsnade Zoo
    Leptoptilos crumenifer

    Marabou stork

    Known as the 'undertaker bird', these storks gained their unfortunate nickname because of their huge, dark, cloak-like wingspan and diet of rotten carcasses.

  • Ricky the rockhopper penguin at Whipsnade Zoo
    Eudyptes moseleyi

    Rockhopper penguin

    These small penguins pack in a big personality, and Ricky the rockhopper penguin is one of our most famous animals.

  • Chimps eating at Whipsnade Zoo
    Pan troglodytes


    Chimps are more closely related to humans than gorillas, and you can watch our chimps regularly use tools at the Zoo.

  • All of our animals