When it comes to playing video games I’m a sucker for a game with any kind of reptile as the lead character. Be it Snake Pass, where you control a snake with a bird sidekick in a platform puzzle style game. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is another game that I’ve played, again with a buddy-duo in it. The duo in Yooka-Laylee is a Chameleon and a Bat and they embark on an epic adventure.
You may be wondering why I’m a sucker for a game with a reptile in it. Besides being a gamer I also have an interest in reptiles. I’ve kept a few different species of reptiles over the space of about 20 years now. The chameleon in Yooka-Laylee is a little special to me, and this is the reason why…
Games and Reptiles
Say Hello to Grump, and yes the name does indicate what kind of characteristics he has. Grump is a Yemen chameleon, also known as a Veiled chameleon. Grump is a male Veiled Cham as he has a prominent crest called a casque on top of his head. Males have a much larger casque and a distinct pattern of green, brown, and yellow barring. Females and juvenile Veiled Chams are primarily solid green with some yellow spots and stripes.
Yemen or Veiled Chameleon
Yemen/ Veiled Chameleons are typically found in Yemen and southern Saudi Arabia in the wild. I don’t know if Grumps breeding line came from Yemen or not. I guess at one stage someone in his line did. However, Grump is a Northern Irish born and bred Chameleon, he was born about twenty miles away from Belfast. I got him when he was 6 weeks old, and he was 4 inches in length. Bright green and without any marking, and a small mouth with a set of tiny sharp teeth. As you can see he has grown in the preceding years since I have had him.
Life off Ground
Wild Chameleons live an arboreal lifestyle, meaning trees, shrubs and other vegetation is where chameleons call home, with only females venturing to the forest floor only for egg-laying. Grump is no different from his wild cousins as his vivarium (house) is kitted out to replicate the same environment as he would live in in the wild. Obviously, it’s a safer environment for him as there aren’t any birds flying above or predators.
He uses his tail as a fifth leg and wraps the end of his tail around the branches then he can hang upside down if he wants. At night when he sleeps his tail is usually curled up similar to the picture below.
Grump By Name, Grump By Nature
I did mention his name indicates his characteristic and it does. I don’t handle Grump unless he wants to be handled. There are days when he feels it’s acceptable when I open the door to his vivarium, that it’s fine for him to climb out on to my hand. Then he uses me as a climbing frame and makes his way to the top of my head, chameleons like to be high up. Not that I’m tall in height but my head is the highest point when he is on me.
Other days he stays away from the open door. And on other occasions, he will come forward with his mouth open, hissing ( hisses like a snake) and with his body blown up to twice his normal size. That’s a warning of keep away this is my territory, it’s a dominance stance, though he won’t attack me if I do put my hands in the vivarium. He has bitten me once when he was tiny but his teeth didn’t break the skin, it felt more like a nip than a bite. I usually can tell what sort of mood he is in of a morning when I open his vivarium doors to spray the plants with water.
The plants must be watered to keep them alive as Grumps vivarium is heated to 32c during the day, and he also has to have a certain level of humidity in his vivarium to help with shedding his skin. Skin shedding is natural for Chameleons and it happens all year round much like we shed skin.
The heat in his vivarium is generated by the lights on a 12-hour timer, 12 hours on and 12 hours in the dark when he sleeps on a branch until the lights come back on again. One light is his equivalent of the sun where he basks under it. Chameleons bask in the sun, it helps to digest their food and of course, keep them warm. The other light in his vivarium is a UVB tube. The UVB light is needed for chameleons to process calcium in captivity, without it Grump could develop serious health problems such as Metabolic Bone Disease. All his food is dusted with calcium powder and vitamins, to keep him healthy and his bones strong. Metabolic Bone Disease can damage a chameleon’s limbs and make them misshapen and deformed and eventually they are unable to use their limbs to climb.
Chameleons are an omnivorous species, meaning they feed mainly on live insects but occasionally on vegetation. Their greatest adaptation is their tongue, with a length of roughly twice the body length, Grump is able to capture distant insects instantly.
It is amazing to sit back and watch him hunt his food and see his tongue shoot across the vivarium capturing a locust who was wandering around minding its own business. He gets fed a diet of live food, locusts, Mealworms, Morio worms and wax worms. And he has a fresh parsley plant. He also has the odd nibble at his live plants in his vivarium, the plants are a non-poisonous variety of plant as not every plant is safe for a chameleon to eat.
Other times Grump likes to be a taxi service for his food, the locusts hop on and off him as they please, or maybe it is the latest in Chamelon headwear. He can remove them from his body himself when they annoy him too much!
Grump lives on his own as Chameleons are a solitary species and only come together in the wild only for breeding. If there was a female in with him and if it wasn’t breeding time they would fight. Most Female chameleons lay eggs, though they do not need a mate to lay eggs and will lay unfertilized eggs every three to six months. The only exception to a chameleon laying eggs is Jackson’s chameleon which gives birth to live chameleons that have hatched inside her body.
Colour Changing…Kind Of
Chameleons can change colour, though unlike the Television adverts would have you believe they cant change into any old colour. They darken or lighten their own colours, at times Grump can be quite dark green with brown and yellow stripes. Other times he is a lighter green and his other colours would brighten to. They do try to camouflage themselves out in the wild to hide from predators. Grump will also react to the colours I am wearing. If I wear a bright red jumper, I won’t see him all day as he will hide in his vivarium among the plants.
As you can see in the video Grump is having a drink of fresh water from the spray gun I use to keep the humidity up and water the plants. He will drink from it most mornings, and if he doesn’t he will drink the water of the plant leaves.
A chameleon’s eyes are one of its defining features. You can see in the video how they bulge out the side of a Grump’s head and appear to swivel about in all directions. Chameleon’s eyes are mounted on small turrets that move independently so one eye can see in front and the other behind, meaning a chameleon can constantly scan their environment for prey and predators. It also means that when Grump is walking away from me he is still constantly watching what I am doing as his eyes are swivelled back, which is quite odd to see.
Grump has 180 degrees horizontally and 90 degrees vertically vision with a total field vision of 342 degrees with a blind spot of 18 degrees directly behind their head. Such an amazing animal to own and care for!