Panther chameleons are oviparous, which is to say they are egg layers.
Sexual maturity in females is primarily a function of size, and fast growing
females have been know to lay fertile eggs before they were 6 months old,
while 7-11 months is considered normal. Males typically take longer to
mature, usually 9-12 months.
The first signal indicating that a female pardalis may be ready to breed will be her color. She will present a very uniform dull orange appearance. This condition indicates only a possibility that she is ready to breed, as she will appear this way for other reasons as well. If appearing this neutral color, you can perch a male panther chameleon on your hand, and begin to move him within close proximity of the female, usually 12-16 inches. Depending upon the demeanor of the male, he may "fire up" right away, and begin his ritualistic, and somewhat comical, head-bobbing. If the female is receptive, her reaction will be almost complete nonchalance, that is to say, no reaction. If she is non receptive, you can expect a quick change of demeanor, consisting of any or all of the following: a darkening of color, gaping of the mouth, puffed-out throat and vertical body enlargement, vigorous rocking motion, and an occasional rapid retreat. If non-receptive, remove the male immediately, and try again in a few days. With receptive females, mating may occur within minutes, or it may take many hours. Actual mating may last 10-40 minutes, and it is best to leave the compatible animals together for up to 48 hours, as copulation may occur more than once.
A gravid female will be ready to lay in 22-34 days. She may appear excessively active at this time, wandering the base of her cage, looking for a place to dig, or may begin digging in any potted plants already within her cage. With gentle palpation, the eggs are easily felt inside her, if not already visible as a "belly of small marbles". At this time, you need to give her access to a laying medium where she can excavate a nest. We use a dirt mix comprised of 1/3 unfertilized potting soil and 2/3 topsoil, available in any major garden shop. This should be moistened only enough to pack firmly, but not so much that you can squeeze a handful of it and have any moisture drip out. Use a bucket or other suitable container that is at least 12" in diameter, and that you can fill with dirt 10" deep, firmly packed. The container may be such that you can cover it with screen, put a cage over it, or place it in the existing cage such that the chameleon will have access to it. Continue to feed and hydrate her, although she may reduce feeding significantly. When ready, the chameleon will excavate a hole, usually 2-3" in diameter, and angling down to a depth of 4-8". While she will lay in only one hole, she may excavate several, although this is often a sign of excessive moisture, or other unsuitable condition. Typically a one-day event, she will dig, deposit anywhere from 6-50 eggs (the norm is 14-34) at the bottom of the hole, then refill the whole with the dirt she removed, making it level and smooth. She will leave the spot as if nothing ever happened, although she will appear quite dirty. At that point, she is done, and plays no part in the further survival of her offspring.
It is recommended that you remove the eggs to a separate, more manageable container. We recommend a deli-type or similar plastic container of at least 16 oz capacity, with a tight fitting lid. The deeper and larger the container, the more stable your moisture content will remain throughout the incubation cycle. Approximately ?" down from the top rim, make a hole no greater than 1/8" in diameter. We recommend vermiculite as an incubation medium, of the regular or course grade (not fine grade). This vermiculite should be moistened with non-chlorinated water to a ratio of 0.8-1 part water added to1 part vermiculite, by weight, and placed in your plastic container to a depth of two or more inches. While maintaining the same vertical orientation in which they were laid, place the eggs in the vermiculite, buried 1-1 1/2" deep. Insure that there is at least ?" clearance between the top of your vermiculite and the lid, so that you will see the chameleons as they begin to hatch. Label the container with relevant info, such as sire and dam, number of eggs, and date laid. Place in a dark place, and where the temperature will remain a stable 73-80 degrees F (23-27 C). Check once a month to insure moisture content, and occasionally add a few drops of water if you sense any drying out, realizing that your original mix was barely moist to begin with. If you notice that any eggs have become moldy, or shriveled, or turned black, you may remove them, although bad eggs do not affect good eggs adjacent to them.
If everything went well, in 6-13 months (with 8-10 being the norm), baby chameleons will cut out of the eggs and emerge on the surface. Hatch rates can vary from 1-100%, and the duration of time from first to last hatch can be a couple of days to several months. In the wild, eggs are subjected to environmental changes according to the season, creating a diapause component to incubation. A few commercial breeders mimic these conditions, and consistently maintain tight hatch groups which incubate for only 6-6 ? months.
Averaging approximately 1?" total length, neonate chameleons can be housed together, but will need to be thinned out as they grow, usually as you begin to witness social aggression. Needing smaller insects as food, all other aspects of husbandry remain the same.
After one successful mating, female panthers are capable of producing one or more additional and viable clutches without breeding again. Under optimal conditions, a female can breed again within 3 weeks of laying (or with sperm retention), such that she will lay clutches approximately 7 weeks apart. While in the wild, it is believed that a female pardalis will lay 1-2 times per year during the spring/summer season, the optimal conditions in some captive scenarios can allow the female to clutch three or more times in one calendar year, sometimes as many as seven. Laying more than twice in any calendar year will significantly reduce the lifespan of your female chameleon.