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The tree climbing lions of the Serengeti

It used to be Lake Manyara National Park that was famous for its tree climbing lions. However, more recently it seems to be a common sight in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park to see lions climbing trees.

A number of destinations have indeed reported sightings of tree climbing lions, including Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park, Botswana’s Savuti region, and South Africa’s Kruger National Park with the Vurhami pride of tree climbing lions in the far south of the park near Crocodile Bridge.

It now appears as if tree climbing lions are not as rare and unusual as was initially thought, and there are increasingly more reports from various game reserves of lions climbing trees. But the question remains – do all lions do this or only some prides?

lion-stands-between-branches

While climbing trees is unusual behaviour for most lion prides, it seems to be fairly common and repeated behaviour among specific prides. This may indicate that there is a measure of behavioural learning that occurs. Young lions see older lions climb trees and copy the behaviour so the habit remains in that pride. And like any skill, the more that they do it, the more adept and confident they become.

lion-in-tree

Some believe that lions opt to climb trees to get a better view, while others believe it is so that they can catch a bit of a cool breeze on a hot day or get away from tsetse flies and other nasties that may bite them at ground level.

lion-stands-in-tree

But perhaps they just climb trees for fun…

We counted seven lions up this tree in the Serengeti.

We counted seven lions up this tree in the Serengeti.

tree-climbing-lions-serengeti

Whatever their motivation, watching these lions carefully and gingerly move about among the branches highlights their lack of natural tree climbing ability. Their awkward hesitance contrasts sharply with the agility and ease of a leopard’s movements in trees.

lion-climbs-down-tree-in-serengeti

Lions are just not built to climb trees. But clearly someone forgot to inform the lions of the Serengeti about that fact as we encountered three different sightings of lions lounging lazily in trees in the space of just two days.

two-lions-laze-in-tree lion-yawns-while-up-in-a-tree

 

lion-relaxes-on-branch-of-tree

Wild Wings Safaris

Wild Wings Safaris is a specialist African safari operator and Kruger Park ground operator, with offices in the UK and South Africa. We offer tailor-made safaris and custom wildlife tours throughout Southern and East Africa. Member of ABTA and SATSA.

  • AliWil22

    Thanks for sharing, Onne – they do look a little out of place. And the leopards can’t be too impressed?!

  • Dale Davis MD

    I think I can outdo this image with the enclosed image taken in Katavi National Park, Tanzania (Chada Camp) of a family of lions in a tree, each one vying for the most comfortable perch

  • France de Palma

    Lions are felines… Felines love to climb… on just about anything!! They like to see the world from above… Some are more agile than others! That’s all!!

  • It is almost a given that you shall always find lions chilling high up in the tree figs, in the southern area of Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda. Every after their morning hunt, it is almost a ritual that these lions will climb in the tree figs to spend the rest of the afternoon. Lions in the other parts of the park have never been found to climb trees, on in this particular side. And so, perhaps it is particular prides that develop this habit and adapt so well!

  • Richard G

    You don’t have to go to Serengeti. I have observed the same behaviour in our own Hluhluwe Park

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