Thanks for the update Nick. I know climbing lions are often seen in Kenya and Tanzania, in part so they can find shade and keep away from the pesky flies. Throughout my travels in Southern Africa, I’ve never seen a lion in a tree, but it makes sense I suppose, if the grasses are tall or they’re escaping another predator. Perhaps it will happen more often.
Not too long ago, I posted in a TWIP a remarkable sighting of the Styx Lioness in a Marula tree. This is a follow up blog post that highlights, in a little more detail, the incredible sighting my guests, Joy and I were lucky to witness.
On this particular morning, we embarked on a game drive, hoping to catch a glimpse of some of the big five. My guests were particularly fond of lions and wanted to learn about and see the different prides that occupy territory on Londolozi. After an hour or so driving in the southwestern parts of the reserve, Ranger and Tracker duo: Ross Cheshire and Life Sibuyi, had found the Styx Pride.
Upon arriving at the scene I suddenly stopped the vehicle, pointing towards a tree in the distance. At first, I could not make out whether is was a leopard, but as we got the binoculars out and looked closely, a lion stood up perched on a branch in a marula tree! I was so surprised by what I saw, as I had never seen a lion in a tree before.
“Are Lions good climbers?”
This was the first question one of my guests asked as we got ourselves a little closer to the marula tree. Alumni Guide, Pete Thorpe, has done the research and gathered some evidence to answer this question and I suggest you read his blog to get an in-depth understanding of their climbing abilities, in short, lions can climb trees and may do so for a number of reasons, here are a few below:
To Get a Better View
In the summer months, the grass is known to grow very tall. By climbing up high, they can survey the area and identify potential prey or threats. In this way, climbing trees is not just a survival strategy, but it also allows lions to be more efficient hunters. This lioness was scanning the open grasslands where a dazzle of zebra were feeding in the distance.
Lions are also known to scramble up trees to steal a carcass that may have been hoisted by a leopard.
To Escape Potential Threats
Another reason why lions may climb trees is to escape from predators such as hyenas or other lions. Lions are territorial animals, and they are known to defend their territory aggressively. However, if a pride of lions or a clan of hyenas threatens them, they may climb up a tree to escape the danger.
With the above-mentioned, tracker Joy suggested that due to the age of the lionesses in the pride, it was more out of curiosity and playfulness that encouraged them up the tree and perhaps to get a better view. There was no sign of a carcass around and no obvious threat to the pride.
We decided to sit tight and after 10 minutes passed the lioness awkwardly started to move and reposition herself on the branch. “This is the moment we have been waiting for, she’s going to come down the tree” I expressed to the guests.
Although lions are decent climbers they make it look a lot more difficult than it should be. And so the not-so-graceful descent began.
As seen in the amusing video footage above, the lioness took her time to manoeuvre down the tree and did so quite ungracefully I might add. But what a special encounter and I am thrilled to have experienced another memorable sighting of the Styx Pride on Londolozi.
There have been a handful of memorable sightings of Lions in trees over the years at Londolozi. I thought I would dive into the archives and share a sighting of the Tsalala Lioness attempting to steal a carcass from the Senegal Bush Male!
Filed under General Nature Lions Photography Wildlife
Lions do climb trees in South Africa, a lot more often than we observe. They have the ability to do so and in certain circumstances they don’t have the choice but to take to the tree tops.