Do Lions Climb Trees? - Beyonder (2024)

Do Lions Climb Trees? - Beyonder (1)


BySrinivasa ShenoyAfrica, Uganda0 Comments

‘Tree climbing Lions’ – much of a marketing hype is made by the Parks and Tourism boards to attract tourists to places where Tree climbing Lions are prevalent. Two destinations that have made the most of it are Ishasha sector in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda and Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania.

Can Lions climb trees?

Generally, all cats can climb trees without exception. Some are just better than the others and have evolved special skills to climb trees for their survival. E.g. the Leopard is the most skilled of all the cats in climbing trees. Carrying prey up the trees, sometimes equal to their body weight, Leopards usually stash food away from other predators. Other big cats like Tigers, Cheetahs, Jaguars and Lions too can climb trees – though quite awkwardly. But their ability to do so is quite inferior as compared to the Leopard and does vary as well. E.g. the Cheetahs with their non-retractable claws are the clunkiest.

Why do Lions climb trees?

The fact that Lions have not physically adapted to a life of climbing trees is evident from their awkward, ungainly movements on trees. The discomfort is mainly due to their bulky weight. However, on occasion we do find Lions climbing trees.

Why so? There are many theories on the same – none conclusive. Maybe this is one way of escaping the torrid heat on the ground level in the Savannahs during their daytime resting period. (Lions are generally nocturnal hunters and mostly rest through the day). Or maybe the height gives them an excellent vantage point to observe movements of their prey over long distances? Or maybe it is one way of escaping the constant irritation caused by the insects (like Tse Tse), which generally do not rise more than 2-3 metres above the ground.

Why are tree climbing Lions found only in certain areas? Why not everywhere?

Sightings of Tree climbing Lions are rare. Large prides of Lions are generally found ‘lounging’ in trees as a matter of routine in two main areas in the world – the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National park, Uganda and in Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania.

There are two main reasons for the prevalence of tree-climbing Lions in these locations. One is the availability of ‘suitable’ trees – with trunks and branches strong and wide enough to support the size and weight of the lions. E.g. Fig trees, large acacias etc. Second, there is the aspect of behaviourallearning. Younger Lions see older Lions climb trees and copy the behaviour, so the habitgrows in that pride. And like any skill, the more that they do it, the more adept and confident theybecome.

Do Lions Climb Trees? - Beyonder (2)

However, tree-climbing lions are by no means restricted to Ishasha and Manyara. Not as rare as previously thought, tree climbing Lions have been sighted in Serengeti National Park (many sightings), Kruger National Park, Masai Mara, Amboseli and even in Botswana.

Are sightings of Tree Climbing Lions ‘guaranteed’ in Ishasha and Lake Manyara National park?

Sightings of tree climbing Lions are rare even in Ishasha and Manyara though there is a prevalence of pride behaviour of climbing trees in these areas. Going with a single minded focus to spot tree climbing Lions will only end up in disappointment most of the time. Enjoy observing the other denizens of the park. E.g. in our case, we were extremely lucky to spot them (in a dramatic fashion) in the last hour of our last safari in Ishasha. There were no Lion sightings at all in the Park for the last 5 days prior to this time! (apparently they had gone on a hunting trip across the border to Congo).

Even spotting a pride of Lions on the grasslands is tough and a matter of luck! It would be a significant bonus if you spot the tree-climbing Lions!

Read my blog for more information on Queen Elizabeth National Park

Do Lions Climb Trees? - Beyonder (3)


Do Lions Climb Trees? - Beyonder (4)

Srinivasa Shenoy

Anand's words - “How do I describe Srini? Bald as an egg and so fair that he passes off as a Britisher in India, Srini is a compulsive traveler with a fetish for wildlife and birds – some on the plate and some that roam free. A penchant for the ‘beyonder’ ‘not the usual’ destinations, he curates many of our off the beat destinations like the wild adventures in Africa. A foodie, he loves to indulge himself in the local cuisine and liquor wherever he travels – the motto being - ‘When in Rome, eat as the Romans do’. A trained Chartered Accountant, management professional (alumnus of ISB, Hyderabad) and wildlife conservation volunteer with more than 17 years of corporate experience across diverse industries like Audit, Finance, Media and Entertainment, he can also spin a mean yarn with the best of the dreamers.”

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Do Lions Climb Trees? - Beyonder (2024)
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