If you visit a select few national parks around the world, you’ll see lions doing something you probably didn’t know they could do: climb trees. In parks like Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda or Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania, you’ll see prides of lions spending a large portion of their days above ground on tree branches. You won’t see lions up in the branches in most other places, so why are some hanging around in trees over there?
Other large predatory cats, like leopards, are known to climb trees. Leopards are light, slim, and built to climb trees. A study found that leopards would lose one-third of their kill to hyenas if they weren’t able to bring their meals up into the trees with them. Lions, however, are much heavier, are very social, and usually live in large prides.
Luke Hunter, executive director of the big cats’ program of the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York City, said, “Lions, on the other hand, are built with enormously powerful forequarters, and a very, very stiff back. That’s for wrestling heavyweight prey, such as a buffalo, to the ground.”
Climbing a tree can be dangerous for a lion because they are so heavy. It can be easy to break a bone when coming down from the tree if all of their weight landed in one spot. Lions also don’t have any need to climb trees. Most lions live in populated prides and can protect each other from predators. On the other hand, leopards live alone most of the time, so it makes sense they have evolved with agility and speed to vertically ascend a tree to get away from predators.
People have pondered for a long time why lions in some areas climb trees, and others don’t, mainly because they are not built to climb. Many speculate that it is due to learned behaviors and unique location conditions.
Lead Image Source : D.Cz./Shutterstock.
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