It is not common to witness lions climbing trees.  Leopards are the most notorious tree climbers of all the big cats, however every so often lions will ‘break the rules’ and venture upwards into the arboreal realms. Notorious at Lake Manyara, in Tanzania, the tree climbing lions spend much of their time in the upper branches of the trees to escape the wrath of the dreaded flies and insects which constantly pester them.

In the below video, one could be forgiven for thinking that you are witnessing a sighting somewhere in East Africa. Truth be told, it is actually the Tsalala lionesses and the ever growing cubs exploring another environment in which to test their agile abilities in the Master’s Tree, the very same tree we wrote about when we first discovered the Tsalala Pride cubs.  Early in the morning, not far from their new den site where the new set of cubs were tucked away, the older cubs spent over an hour running and playing with the two Tsalala lionesses to give us this unusual sighting.

Ever alert, the lionesses are still wary of the many natural forces which could prevent their cubs from reaching maturity. The Majingilane coalition continue their reign of dominance even further south into the Dudley region below Londolozi, usurping territory from the young Southern Pride, now desperately on the run for a secure territory of their own.

Tsalala Lioness Looking out from Hunter's Tree by Rob Jansen

Tsalala Lioness Looking out from Master's Tree by Rob Jansen

However, things are not always what they seem. Recent reports have filtered through to Londolozi of a coalition of 6 male lions making strident progress southwards into the Sabi Sands. These lions, known only as the Matimba males, could be a new force to be reckoned with and will most certainly want to challenge Majingilane dominance should they move down into Londolozi.

For the cubs of the Tsalala Pride, this could spell potential disaster as they are on the frontline of the Matimba male’s warpath and not yet mature enough to avert the potential threat.  Neither the lions nor the cubs will be able to do anything other than hope the Majingilane Coalition can hold their territory.

One of the older Tsalala Pride Cubs by Rob Jansen

One of the older Tsalala Pride Cubs by Rob Jansen

These new Matimba males remind me of the problems that we face in the world today.  From global debt crises, global warming, global overfishing, diminishing big cat populations, rampant rhino poaching, escalating water shortages and human greed comes the concern of how to cope with each of these problems.  Much like new coalitions, each of these global issues wants to cast their influence and effects onto the environment, adding to our sense of uncertainty towards the ever persistent unknown.

Here at Londolozi, the issue of a new coalition moving into Majingilane territory is a very real and potentially devastating threat.  One can only have faith in the uncommon and unusual laws of nature playing a hand out to its own effect.  On some days these unusual occurrences provide us with lions playing in trees whilst on others they may play an entirely different role towards the lion dynamics in this piece of wilderness.  One can only jump on the roller coaster ride of this world and wait to see how it all continues to unfold…

Written by: Rich Laburn
Filmed and Photographed by: Rob Jansen (Londolozi Guest)

Filed under Guests Wildlife

About the Author

Rich Laburn

Head of Digital

Rich is the driving force behind Londolozi’s online storytelling and the Londolozi blog. His passions of digital media, film and photography, combined with his field-guiding background, have seen him take the Londolozi blog to new heights since he began it in 2009. Rich ...

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on The Tree Climbing Lions of Londolozi

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Thanks Rich for sharing this beautiful interaction of such a magnificent pride – love the Tsalalas, they are so strong, determined and wise! Don’t think the leopards will be too thrilled with their tree climbing skills! I have a strong affection for the Styx as well, sadly they do not seem to be as strong, healthy or wily as the Tsalalas – just my perception. That said, the Styx male seems to be pretty bold and good at knowing when to stand up and be counted and when to leave.
Your thoughts in the last 2 paragraphs echo exactly what I was thinking as I read about the Majingilanes moving into the Dudley region threatening the Southern Pride – such a shame they cannot be satisfied with the territory they have and stick around the families they have. It seems to reflect the human need for more and more, never satisfied; or is it just that with the changing dynamics of there being coalitions of males, rather than one or two males looking after one pride, that they need a bigger territory. Interesting times as always in the Sabi Sands and I guess until we can speak ‘lion’ we will be speculating!
Many thanks indeed for sharing the ongoing story of your wonderful world.


Such great pics!!! How lucky to see lions in a TREE!!!


I first read of the Matimaba/ Sava males on Richard Millar’s website. Had brought it up with Rob from Idube some time ago. He said he hadn’t heard of this new coalition, who are still not at their peak. Regardless, I cannot fathom a return of the Mapogo styled reign, six male lions, with luxurious manes, out on conquest with a penchant for death and destruction. There are some photos on the net of some of these males, they look vibrant and tough, and surely enough when those manes get bigger and the testosterone starts raging, there shall come the next crusade in the Sabi Sands. Too much fighting and injury for the Majings, as well as separation from time to time, will only spell their doom. Someone seriously needs to start photographing this next big coalition, and documenting their movements.

Lion Warfare forever.



Do these big male coalitions make a noticeable dent on the hyena populations?

Adam Bannister

Morning Kk, very good question about whether lion coalitions impact hyena populations. The truth is I do not know the answer but my gut tells me this may be the case. I have two incidents to back this theory up. Firstly I have watched the Majigilanes actively kill a handful of hyenas in the Londolozi are and secondly I have watched these big coalitions find active hyena den sites and attempt to get ‘into’ the holes. The next day the hyena den site was no longer active- they had moved their youngsters to another site. Thus i do feel that hyenas avoid, or at least try to avoid, these big male lions!

Rich Laburn

Thanks for your comments Adam, the link to the incident where the Majingilanes killed an hyena is as follows:

Rob Jansen

Thanks Bronwyn it was well worth the predawn Winter wake-up to get that sighting. (thank you Boyd)
And great post Rich. It is amazing how the bush keeps evolving and keeping you on your toes.


The majings has to get their act together. WE showed the Matimbas moving in to the Gijimas old territory. They were vocal, and yes they do look big and strong. It’d be heartbreaking to see all the young cubs get wiped out, if they do try to invade the majing’s territory.

Roar for the Asiatic Lion

Stunning and fantastic – I shared it on my facebook page…thank you 🙂

Rich Laburn

Thank You very much!

suzanne gibson

Wonderful pictures! We were fortunate enough in Feb to see these 2 lionesses plus a Majingilane male, and the mother of these cubs jumped up into a tree in front of us! – definitely showing off. Byron and Judas thought she might have had cubs recently as she was lactating; they hadn’t been seen at that time. The mother has clearly passed on her party trick to her cubs! Another good reason not to climb a tree if you’re being chased in Londolozi – apart from leopards and a boomslang we saw in one.

James T

Amazing footage! What a privilege to have witnessed this!


Thanks for the great footage. I am also concerned about the leopards in Sabi Sands who do NOT expect lions to climb trees after them. Leopards can climb very high on quite small branches but I don’t know if eiher they or the lions realize this. Fingers crossed that none of beloved cats get into it with each other.

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