SWARA

Santiago Legarre and David Payne witness a treeclimbi­ng lioness in the Maasai Mara.

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Everyone knows that leopards are born climbers. Conversely, everyone knows that lions don’t climb trees. Online you might find photos of lions in Tanzania's Lake Manyara National Park, but the branches are mostly horizontal. But these branches are always horizontal, parallel to the ground and easy to climb. Nothing like what David Payne and I saw one cold morning in Maasai Mara, right outside the Ashnil Camp.

We were looking at a group of young lions out hunting. We decided to move on after a while. David placed himself in the front section of the Land Cruiser, looking forward. I faced backwards. Then I saw a yellowish spot on top of a tree, some 50 metres away. I thought it might be a leopard. Francis, Ashnil’s driver, agreed to turn round and we passed by young lions in the opposite direction. As we approached the tree, what we saw astonished us!

A minute or two after our arrival at the tree, the lioness jumped down, seeming to hurt herself slightly when she touched the ground, recovering and joining the younger lions and getting ready to pursue a group of impala that the lioness apparently spotted from her vantage point on the tree branch. Another myth comes down. Some lions will climb trees even in the Mara!

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