Why Don’t All Lions Climb Trees?


Go to Queen Elizabeth Nationwide Park in Uganda or Lake Manyara Nationwide Park in Tanzania and also you’ll see one thing uncommon: lions that climb timber and spend a superb a part of their lives resting on branches excessive above the bottom. Elsewhere, lions hardly ever climb and look somewhat foolish after they attempt to take action.

“They’ll stand up there fairly nicely,” stated Craig Packer, who oversaw the Serengeti Lion Venture for some 35 years. However he added that “they stand up there after which they’re like, ‘Whoa, how do I get down?’”

Different large predatory cats climb timber on a regular basis. “Anatomically, leopards are simply higher constructed for climbing,” stated Luke Hunter, government director of the massive cats program of the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York Metropolis. “They’re lighter, and a leopard’s scapula, their shoulder blades, are proportionally greater, flatter and extra concave than a lion’s.

“Lions, however, are constructed with enormously highly effective forequarters, and a really, very stiff again,” he continued. “That’s for wrestling heavyweight prey, resembling a buffalo, to the bottom.” Their monumental energy, he added, “comes at the price of the agility and the vertical energy {that a} leopard has in with the ability to whip up a tree with an impala.”

Climbing a tree, Dr. Packer stated, may even be harmful, particularly for heavier male lions. “Coming down, a lion might dislocate a limb with all that weight.”

Most lions even have little have to climb timber. They’re social and dwell in prides and might usually defend their meals from different predators. Solitary leopards should stash their kills someplace protected and would, in response to one examine, lose greater than one-third of their kills to hyenas in the event that they had been unable to hoist their captured prey up a tree.

So why do lions in some areas climb timber, in the event that they’re not constructed to climb and infrequently want to take action? It has much less to do with pure skills and extra to do with realized behaviors and distinctive native situations.

In Zimbabwe, there are only a few data of lions climbing timber, stated Moreangels Mbizah, a conservation biologist working with lions within the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Space. “The one purpose they might need to climb is that if there’s something on the bottom that they’re avoiding,” she stated.

After a interval of notably heavy rainfall in 1963, for instance, a plague of Stomoxys biting flies drove lions up timber and down warthog burrows, anyplace to flee the bugs that prompted open wounds and lethal infections. This realized behavior, George B. Schaller speculated in “The Serengeti Lion,” a seminal examine of lion conduct, might have been the precursor to the tradition of tree climbing amongst Lake Manyara’s lions.

Lions may additionally climb timber to flee the warmth and survey the panorama for prey, says Joshua Mabonga, carnivore analysis coordinator with the Uganda program on the Wildlife Conservation Society. However in Queen Elizabeth Nationwide Park in Uganda, there could also be one more reason: Lions there dwell in smaller prides than these in lots of different lion habitats and share the park with massive herds of buffaloes and elephants. When confronted with a stampede of buffaloes who might endanger them, lions escape up into the branches. “The most secure place for lions is within the timber,” Mr. Mabonga stated.

Or, as Dr. Packer put it, “Lions climb timber to flee pests, whether or not they’re as large as an elephant or as small as a secure fly.”

For lions to have the ability to make such an escape, they want the proper kind of tree. Lions usually climb African sycamore fig timber or umbrella acacia thorn timber, which have horizontal branches not too far above the bottom.

“It makes it very easy for lions to climb and stand up,” Dr. Hunter stated.

The place lions have acquired a style for the expertise, and situations exist permitting them to climb, they’ve taken to tree climbing with the leopard-like zeal of converts. In Queen Elizabeth Nationwide Park, Dr. Hunter stated: “You get total households — adults, kids, everybody — up timber. Technology after era, it actually has change into a behavior to go up within the timber. It simply will get entrenched as a tradition as a result of it’s enjoyable.”


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