Hawaii Chameleon: A Guide to Species and Care

Jackson's chameleons from Kenya, introduced in the 1970s, disrupt native ecosystems in Hawaii as invasive species.

Understanding Hawaii’s Chameleon Population

Introduction to Chameleons in Hawaii

Chameleons, while captivating creatures, are not native to the Hawaiian Islands.

The Jackson’s chameleon (Trioceros jacksonii), a species originally from Kenya, has established a population in Hawaii since the 1970s source.

They have since dispersed throughout various islands, making their presence known within the local ecosystems.

Native Versus Invasive Species

Hawaii is home to a diverse range of native flora and fauna; however, the introduction of invasive species, like the chameleon, has negatively impacted the delicate balance.

Invasive species often outcompete native species for food, habitat, and other essential resources.

The Jackson’s chameleon has become an influential invasive lizard source.

The Role of the Pet Trade

The increase of chameleon populations in Hawaii can largely be credited to the pet trade.

These colorful lizards were initially introduced in the 1970s, primarily through illegal imports source.

Although the Hawaii Department of Agriculture has established regulations to prohibit further imports, the population continues to grow and thrive in Hawaii’s unique environment.

Impact on Local Ecosystems

The presence of chameleons in Hawaii has altered the natural balance within the ecosystems they inhabit.

As predators, chameleons have been known to consume native insects, negatively affecting the food chain and endangering native wildlife source.

Moreover, these invasive lizards can cause damage to gardens and local plant life.

Prevention and control measures are necessary to protect Hawaii’s biodiversity and the delicate ecosystems that native species depend on source.

Conserving Wildlife and Regulating Pet Ownership

A Hawaii chameleon perches on a lush branch, blending into its surroundings.</p><p>A sign nearby reads "Conserving Wildlife and Regulating Pet Ownership."

Legal Framework and Conservation Efforts

In Hawaii, Jackson’s chameleons (Chamaeleo jacksonii) are considered invasive species.

They primarily inhabit the Big Island, but populations have been reported on Oahu, Maui, and Kauai1.

Due to their potential impact on native species and the environment, there are regulations in place to control their distribution and ownership2.

The Hawaii Invasive Species Council2 has categorized Jackson’s chameleons as Injurious Wildlife, making it illegal to transport them between islands or export them to the mainland.

Violators may face fines and possible prison sentences.

One measure taken by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) includes an amnesty program allowing people to turn in illegal animals without facing penalties2.

As part of conservation efforts, the Maui Invasive Species Committee3 monitors and manages the presence and impact of chameleons in Hawaii.

Chameleons as Pets: Responsibilities and Guidelines

Although transporting Jackson’s chameleons across islands is prohibited, individuals can still keep them as pets if they’re bred in captivity3.

However, prospective owners must adhere to strict guidelines and be mindful of their responsibilities.

  1. Environment: As arboreal animals (tree-dwellers), chameleons need suitable habitats with vegetation and proper elevation to thrive1.
  2. Feeding habits: Jackson’s chameleons primarily feed on insects, so owners need to provide them with a steady supply4.
  3. Camouflage and behavior: Chameleons are known for their color changes to blend into their surroundings. Observing this behavior can be fascinating, but also requires careful monitoring to ensure the animals’ wellbeing4.
  4. Reproduction and offspring: Female chameleons produce eggs, which pet owners should manage responsibly to prevent further population expansion4.

In conclusion, Hawaii’s wildlife conservation efforts and pet ownership regulations seek to balance the preservation of native species while allowing for responsible ownership of fascinating creatures like Jackson’s chameleons.


  1. https://hawaiibirdguide.com/chameleons-in-hawaii/ 2

  2. https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/hisc/info/invasive-species-profiles/jacksons-chameleon/ 2 3

  3. https://mrcsl.org/chameleons-in-hawaii/ 2

  4. https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Trioceros_jacksonii/ 2 3