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The Veiled Chameleon

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Over our first few articles, we’ve taken a fairly holistic approach to how the proper inclusion of reptiles in your pet store can really assist your bottom line. This month, we’re going to shift gears slightly to talk about a specific animal, the veiled chameleon, and how it can do wonders for your store’s profit margin, despite something of a negative reputation.

While the veiled chameleon is often viewed as “difficult,” or “less desirable,” a pet, that view couldn’t be further from the truth.

The veiled chameleon is a tree-living lizard that feeds primarily on insects. Veiled chameleons originated in the mountainous regions of Yemen and the Arabian peninsula. This actually provides the veiled chameleon a significant genetic advantage, as centuries of extreme temperature and humidity swings makes veiled chameleons particularly hardy and tough. Most veiled chameleons in the pet trade, however, are captive-bred, though there is a significant wild colony of veiled chameleons in Florida.

Male veiled chameleons typically are larger than females, ranging from 17 to 24 inches at full length compared to a female’s 10 to 14 inches. Males also tend to live longer than females, averaging 7-8 years to a female’s 5 years.

Chameleons’ most notable trait is their ability to change color. While many tend to believe that this is used primarily as camouflage while in the wild, a chameleon’s coloration has much more to do with their current emotional state.

At rest, chameleons blend in with their surroundings, generally turning brown or green. However, when emotionally agitated, primarily when frightened, when pursuing a mate or when defending their territory, a veiled chameleon takes on bright colors including blue, orange and yellow.

While their coloration is not typically linked to camouflage, veiled chameleons are experts in their ability to hide. With a narrow body profile, chameleons often are able to hide in plain sight, using branches and leaves as cover. Coupled with their eyes, which can move independently without moving their head, chameleons can stay hidden in the most unlikely of places.

One of the most prevalent, and incorrect, reasons that some stores shy away from veiled chameleons are their aversion to handling. Where a bearded dragon or leopard gecko might enjoy being picked up and carried around, chameleons tend not to enjoy this level of interaction, which may provide them undue stress.

However, this is not to say that veiled chameleons are totally non-interactive.  Rather, feeding time can provide unique opportunities for interaction, as chameleons can eat mice or ten adult-sized crickets per day and can even be trained to take food from their owner’s hand. This level of interactivity differs from that of other lizards, but it can be just as fun for an owner and anyone else who watches.

This level of feeding is of particular interest to a savvy pet store owner. With a veiled chameleon running through approximately 30 to 60 crickets in a week, a chameleon owner will need to buy crickets every 7-10 days. And, since crickets aren’t among the supplies carried by most “big box” grocery stores, a veiled chameleon in the home means a visit to your pet store on a near weekly basis.

Your store likely already carries many of the supplies necessary to house veiled chameleons, ready to sell to new reptile owners. Gated cages are particularly easy to find and are made by numerous manufacturers. One item of note, however, comes in terms of lighting. Veiled chameleons require both UVA and UVB lighting, which becomes another advantage for the pet store owner.

A key thing to remember here is that reptiles have to be priced properly in order to ensure turnover in your store. In our experience, veiled chameleons tend to vary wildly in terms of price, sometimes even approaching a 400 percent markup over wholesale. However, by reducing price in accordance with our recommendations earlier in this series, a savvy pet store owner can more than make up the difference in profit by selling necessary add-ons.

Our experience, in fact, shows that by dropping the price on a veiled chameleon to a mere 100 percent markup, a pet store owner can see over double their usual profit, when other necessary materials are factored in.

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