The Tree Climbing Lions


Tsalala Lioness drinking late afternoon

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

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

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)

Rich Laburn
Rich Laburn is filmmaker, photographer and writer who is based at Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa. Spending his time capturing scenes of the wild and communicating the beauty of the African bushveld, he runs the Londolozi Blog as a way to entertain and engage people wishing to visit these wild lands.
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