Chameleon forest dragons have green or brown bodies with orange and tan markings. Despite their name, they are not true chameleons but can still change color to blend into their habitat.

Physical Description

Chameleon forest dragons have short, laterally compressed bodies with pronounced vertebral keels. They are generally green, though Sumatran specimens like those at the Smithsonian's National Zoo are brown.

Forest dragons have orange and tan markings, and the skin around a male's eyes is bright blue. Their heads are short with a strong, triangular profile and spines directly above the eyes. Like most lizards, they have visible ear openings and moveable eyelids. Their long, thin limbs are equipped with five, clawed digits, and their hind limbs are slightly longer than their front limbs.

Despite their name, chameleon forest dragons are not true chameleons. They can change color to blend into their habitat, but this ability is not as pronounced as in true chameleons. Forest dragons can appear in a number of different shades and show brighter colors as a warning display when threatened.


Chameleon forest dragons have an adult length of around 5-6 inches (12.7-15.3 centimeters) from snout to vent for males and around 4-5 inches (10.1-12.7 centimeters) for females.

Native Habitat

Chameleon forest dragons live in the wet, tropical forests of Southern Malaya, Sumatra and Western Java (Indonesia). They are arboreal, typically found clinging to the trunks and branches of trees.


Chameleon forest dragons live an average of 10 years in human care. Their lifespan in the wild is unknown.

Food/Eating Habits

These lizards are primarily insectivorous, meaning they eat insects. They feed on a variety of invertebrates found in tropical rainforests. 

At the Smithsonian's National Zoo, chameleon forest dragons eat earthworms and crickets.

Reproduction and Development

Little is known about the natural breeding behaviors of forest dragons. They are oviparous lizards, meaning they lay eggs that then hatch. They typically lay between two and six eggs in a ground nest. The eggs incubate for about 70 days.

Conservation Efforts

The chameleon forest dragon's conservation status has not been formally assessed, but its population is likely in decline given the relatively small and specific area they inhabit. This area is vulnerable to habitat loss due to logging and clearing for agriculture.

This species is also increasingly popular as a pet, and it is thought that wild captures for trade also impact the population.

Help this Species

  • Reduce, reuse and recycle — in that order! Cut back on single-use goods, and find creative ways to reuse products at the end of their life cycle. Choose recycling over trash when possible.
  • Share the story of this animal with others. Simply raising awareness about this species can contribute to its overall protection.

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