Chameleons and the CITES law

A veiled chameleon is a protected species: it is illegal to take it from the wild. They are allowed to be kept, bred and sold. To own or keep one you need a permit or CITES papers. Many other species of chameleon are also protected species. Some of them are allowed to be bred, bought and sold with CITES papers, others are even illegal to keep as a pet.

The CITES program

CITES stands for Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora. The USA, Australia, all European countries and Latin America are part of the CITES program. Just 7 countries in the world refuse to participate in the CITES program. When you are in one of the countries that upholds CITES, you will need the proper paperwork for any pet animal you keep that falls under CITES.

There are three CITES appendices, those are lists of species that fall in a certain category. The CITES I list of species than cannot be traded as pets, and the CITES II list of species that can be traded as pets. CITES III is not common and is usually not important for the pet trade. CITES III contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade. Species that are not on any list can be traded freely under the CITES law, but there may be other laws valid in your country that would prevent you to keep these animal species. More about CITES can be found at

Most chameleons are on the CITES II list

Most chameleon species are on the CITES II appendix, meaning that they can be traded freely but cannot be taken from the wild. The veiled chameleon, panther chameleon, Jacksons chameleon and most common chameleon species in the pet trade are all CITES II.

Because those pet chameleons are on the CITES II list, they can be kept and traded freely as long as they have the right paperwork. This paperwork is pretty simple, you just need a document stating the species, the name or identity of the chameleon, the name and address of the previous owner and of the new owner. The document needs to be signed by the old and the new owner and needs to be kept by the new owner until the chameleon is sold or dies.

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Always ask for CITES papers when buying a chameleon

When you buy a chameleon, you need to get the proper CITES papers. It is easy to do it, but you have to do it none the less. A good pet shop will have a proper paper prepared for you with all the information you need. If you do not get one, ask for it.

When you already bought your chameleon but you did not get the proper papers, you can go back to the place you bought it and ask them to