Tree Climbing lions in Uganda : The Tree Climbing Lions are the largest cats still roaming the African wild. Lions in general help balance the eco-system by maintaining the population of herbivores animals like Buffaloes and the different species of antelopes. Lions also prey on weaker and sick animals helping reduce the spread of diseases and parasites. Unfortunately, the overall population of lions in Africa has reduced considerably with about 25,000 individual’s lions still living in the wild. Over 250,000 lions roamed Africa’s savannah just a century ago. The main cause of this massive reduction in number is human interference. Increased human population has seen lion territory reduce as more land is cleared for farming and settlement. Lions have also fallen victims to poaching and new diseases brought by more domestic animals within their vicinity all to thrill while on Uganda Safaris Tours.
Uganda is one of the last strongholds for lions in Africa. Lions can be sighted in Queen Elizabeth national park, Murchison Falls National Park and Kidepo valley national park. Of the about 400 lions in Uganda, 130 are found in Queen Elizabeth National Park – the most visited park in Uganda. The park receives good rains and retains its scenic beauty for most parts of the year unlike say the drier Maraa in Kenya. The park also stands out because of its amazing landscape (Maramagambo forest, Kazinga channel, craters and Kyambura gorge), birding population and wildlife – especially the rare tree climbing lion which are one of the leading tourist attractions in Uganda. You might want to read about the best places to see lions in the world thus the Tree Climbing lions in Uganda.
Adult Tree climbing lions are very rare. Most lions keep away from trees once they reach a certain size, except when surrounded by say a herd of buffalo and climbing a tree is the only safety option. Tree climbing lions are mainly found in the Ishasha sector of Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National park and Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania. Individual lions have also been sighted climbing trees in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and Kruger National Park in South Africa. However, these are rare sightings and cannot be compared to those in Queen Elizabeth National Park or Lake Manyara national park.
In Ishasha sector – Queen Elizabeth national park, a whole pride can be spotted on a tree making Queen Elizabeth National Park the best place to spot tree climbing lions. The Most lions prefer staying on the ground and leave tree climbing for their cubs or other smaller cats like Leopards. The lions in Queen Elizabeth National park have however deviated from usual behaviour and can be seen lazing around acacia and fig trees in the early afternoon.
Why do they do lions climb trees?
Several theories that have been proposed to explain this unique behaviour. Some people believe that lions have a natural ability to climb trees like all cats. Climbing trees should therefore not be a surprise given that like all cats, they have sharp claws. Others believe that the lions in Ishasha have adapted this behaviour from countless generations of lion prides before them. Some lion researchers believe that the lions climb trees to avoid bites from pests and insects like tse-tse flies and mosquitoes that live on lower ground. The researchers also believe the lions climb trees to escape the midday heat on the ground especially during the dry season. The leaves and tree branches offer a cool breeze and relief from the great afternoon heat. By climbing to the top of the fig and acacia trees, the lions can get uninterrupted rest while also monitoring their territories for prey and other their competitors like hyenas and leopards. Whatever the reasons for the intriguing habit of climbing trees, the lions attract more and more visitors each year to Queen Elizabeth national park.
Other things to do in Queen Elizabeth National park
The Ishasha plains of Queen Elizabeth National Park are known for the tree climbing lions but there are several other activities that one can get involved in while there.
While in Ishasha, one can request for a tour of the local Bakiga community. The Ishasha community uplift program introduced a tour opportunity led by a lady Agartha. Agartha and her female friends will share with your information about the Bakiga culture and way of life. You will be taken to local homesteads and individual huts to learn the local way of preparing meals (millet porridge, bananas etc). You can go with the women to their gardens and help harvest millet, grind it into flour and turn it into a ready meal. Agartha and her group of women will share with you what it means to be a wife among the Bakiga and how to take care of the husband. By the end of the Uganda safaris tours you would have learnt a lot about the Bakiga culture and even tasted some of their potent local brew.
Game drive to see other animal species
The Ishasha plains are home to the Topi (type of antelope) Kobs, warthogs, buffaloes, elephants, baboons, leopards, other smaller antelopes and birds like the black coucal, compact weaver, herons and storks. You can arrange for a game drive to see some of the beautiful wildlife within the Ishasha sector. If you have more time to spare, you can decide to go for a game drive at the Kasenyi plains/sector to see more lions (do not climb trees), the beautiful Kyambura gorge is for chimpanzee trekking or the Maramagambo forest for nature walks. If you have time, do not fail to take a boat tribe around the Kazinga Chanel for one of the largest collection of wildlife and birds in the world.