Breeder Ethics

By Jason Descamps & Kristina Francis


Descamps, J. & K. Francis (2005). Breeder Ethics. Chameleons! Online E-Zine, October 2005. (

The herp industry, in all its glory, is a fairly young industry. It still has plenty of room for improvement, in both business practices and husbandry. This is true of the captive chameleon hobby as well. Serious keepers have long exalted the breeder as the ideal source for a captive chameleon. This is true when the breeder has ethics, both in business and animal breeding.

Consider the veiled female you buy and breed once. She, if kept in good health, will lay multiple clutches of fertile eggs. The 30 plus eggs produced by this female are incubated and many bouncing baby chameleons are born several months later. It is at this point when ethical decisions must be made. All too often these animals are immediately offered for sale, at ages far too young or even worse sold as "pairs". The decisions made by breeders, no matter how small scale, directly affect the future of the chameleon hobby. Making the ethical decision may be less profitable in the short term, but the long term benefits will allow chameleons to continue to be enjoyable captives for years to come.

Most people are interested in getting the best quality service or product for their hard-earned money. This means they are going to support a good, ethical breeder, given the choice. You may ask yourself,

What is the difference between a breeder with ethics, and a breeder without?

Ethical breeders make decisions based upon the health of the animals and the future of the species, not based on profit. Chameleons are not pets for everyone; screening potential buyers is a quick way to establish if a potential customer is ready for the responsibility of chameleon ownership. While this may cost you a sale here and there, it ensures that the chameleons will have the best opportunity to thrive in their new environment.

In this day and age of internet sales we have stepped into a realm of internet experts. It seems that years of experience have been quickly replaced by the ability to reproduce a single generation of chameleon. An ethical breeder will always be truthful in their experience level in dealing with not only a potential customer, but also with other breeders. They will also freely admit the limits of their knowledge, welcome questions, fulfill requests for references, and be open to new information. If you make outrageous claims of years of experience, have large gaps in practical experience, claim to be the first to mass breed a firmly established species, or swear that you raised healthy animals on an alternative diet, It will not make you as a breeder look more important. It will make you look like a liar.

Standing behind your product is the key to a successful business. Ethics allow a customer to feel comfortable purchasing a chameleon from a certain breeder. Knowing that a breeder will raise a chameleon under the proper conditions, provide the proper care information, and ship the quickest and safest way possible, all make a customer more likely to do business with an ethical breeder.

Ethical breeding is making its way to the forefront of the hobby. Increasing numbers of inbred and line bred animals are finding their way into the market everyday. The popularity of "morphs" represented by other common species has led to the relative acceptance of this practice. While common with other species, these practices could prove dangerous to chameleon populations that already suffer from a very limited gene pool. Tracking captive breeding efforts offers a level of protection to chameleon populations and allows for a more diverse gene pool to be established. Pedigree tracking also offers the buyer a modicum of investment protection; a known parentage can be a useful tool and thus adds some value. Systems such as the CCBTD allow breeders worldwide to record and view lineage information and make ethical breeding decisions in the future.

As we progress in the field of captive breeding, the reliance on captive born animals will increase exponentially. Breeders that are ethically producing captive offspring today should be supported through purchases. Wild caught animals will eventually become scarce, as many species already are, and breeders will be the only reliable source for quality animals. Only the healthiest individuals should be allowed to propagate, subject to the careful planning of each clutch. Accidental breedings or breedings of inferior animals are inexcusable; the keeper should control the captive environment, not the captives. Animals of questionable health and or genetics should be removed from breeding projects through culling: sales to individuals who understand that these animals must remain unbred pets. Until a safe method of sterilization is determined, placing in "pet homes" is the best method for culling. The individuals practicing with questionable activities now, will soon become a liability for those attempting to establish and maintain captive populations. Choosing to support an ethical breeder helps to maintain reliable sources for captive bred chameleons, unrelated bloodlines and genetically pure animals.

Support the ethical breeder.

Ultimately, the consumer drives the ethics of the chameleon hobby. Choose to do business only with breeders who make ethical decisions regarding care, breeding, and business; by refusing to do business with anything less, individuals who make poor ethical decisions will be driven from the hobby. Buyers should ask questions, seek and check references, and research any potential purchase with as many sources as possible. Being an informed buyer is the best way to guarantee that ethical breeders thrive.

Jason Descamps

Jason Descamps has been keeping and breeding reptiles and amphibians for over 12 years. To date he has worked with over 135 species of reptiles including breeding 18 species of chameleons. His current focus is creating a stable captive chameleon gene pool through the CCBTD and working with rarely bred chameleon species such as C. (Tr.) weidersheimi, C. (Tr.) werneri, and C. (Tr.) fuelleborni. Jason served as an assistant editor for the Chameleons! Online E-Zine from December 2005 through February 2008.

Kristina Francis

Kristina began her journey with chameleons in 1999. She remains a perpetual student of this fascinating lizard family. When not busy caring for her chameleons, she is a professional animal artist. She is the editor of the Melleri Discovery web site, and a moderator of the mellerichams Yahoo! group. She breeds a clutch only once every few years, and shares her data on each species she works with. She volunteers each day to answer questions of fellow hobbyists, via phone and email. It all repays a small measure of the joy of chameleon keeping.


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