Tiger chameleon (Archaius tigris)

Synonyms: Calumma tigris, Chamaeleo seychellensis, Chamaeleo tigris
GenusArchaius (1)
SizeLength: up to 16 cm (2)

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (3) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (4).

With a length of just 16 centimetres, this enchanting species is relatively small for a chameleon (2) (5). Body colour varies from inconspicuous light-grey to a bold yellow-orange, or even green or dark brown, usually with scattered black spots and a pale grey chin and throat (2). One of the tiger chameleon’s most distinctive features, however, is the pointed projection on its chin, which can be up to 3 millimetres long and sits amongst a comb of smaller, spiky outgrowths that border the underside of the chin (2) (5).

Endemic to the Seychelles, occurring only on the islands of Mahé, Silhouette and Praslin (3).

This arboreal species is found in primary tropical forest, secondary forest where there is high plant diversity, and upland rural gardens, from sea level to 550 metres (3).

After a short warming up phase in the morning, this chameleon goes in search of insects and other small animals on which to feed (2). Like all chameleons, this species hunts by firing its elongated sticky tongue at prey with incredible speed. The tongue is tipped in a deadly suction pad capable of ensnaring prey that an ordinary reptile would never hope to hold (2) (6).

Reproduction on the island of Mahé is associated with introduced pineapple plants, in which the tiger chameleon lays its eggs. These plants are not used on Silhouette or Praslin, and the natural nesting sites remain unknown, although the endemic Pandanus and palms are thought to be used (3). In captivity, clutches contain between five and twelve eggs (2).

The tiger chameleon is threatened by habitat degradation caused by introduced alien plants, such as cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum), especially on Mahé and Praslin (3) (7). As an island endemic with a restricted range of just three small islands, and a population thought to number only 2,000 individuals, the tiger chameleon is particularly vulnerable to changes within its habitat (7).

The tiger chameleon and its habitat are protected within the Morne Seychelles (Mahé) and Praslin National Parks (3), and alien plant control on Praslin (7) and habitat restoration programmes on Silhouette are being undertaken to help this species (8). The main population occurs on Silhouette, where it has been suggested that forested areas containing populations should be given legal protection by being included in a new protected area (3).

Authenticated (20/11/2006) by Justin Gerlach, Scientific Co-ordinator, The Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles.

  1. Townsend, T.M., Tolley, K.A., Glaw, F., Böhme, W. and Vences, M. (2010) Eastward from Africa: palaeocurrent-mediated chameleon dispersal to the Seychelles islands. Biology Letters, published online 8 September 2010.
  2. Terra Inspira (September, 2006)
  3. IUCN Red List (July, 2006)
  4. CITES (July, 2006)
  5. Calumma Arten (September, 2006)
  6. Lasher, A. (2001) Chameleons disclose talent for weightlifting: hunting other lizards: changing color in 10 seconds is not their only trick. The Cold Blooded News, 28(6). Available at:
  7. Seychelles Islands Foundation (December, 2008)
  8. The Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles (December, 2008)