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Cat’s Cradle

Posted on 8/27/2019 12:00:00 AM in Travel Trivia

Climbing comes so unnaturally to lions, only two populations attempt it—and getting down is even more difficult, which makes for less than graceful dismounts.

Question: Where does a lion go in Tarangire to escape bug bites?

Answer: Up a tree

Lions are not really born for tree-climbing. Weighing up to 400 pounds, a lion’s body is not designed for pulling itself upward; in contrast, leopards boast leaner frames, stronger back muscles, and longer claws, making climbing easy. A rare few lions do head upward to linger in the branches, but only in two places: a single park in Uganda and around Tarangire, Tanzania.

Scientists believe that bugs are the motivation. In the hot sun, the lions naturally seek out the cooling shade of trees. Unfortunately, they aren’t the only ones: myriad insects live in the roots of the trees and the earth below. When a lion naps in the shade, it becomes a ready-made feast for the bugs at ground level, especially biting flies. As mighty as a lion may be, his big soft paws aren’t great tools for swatting insects.

As Darwin taught us, animals adapt. In this case, it is believed that the lions of Tarangire taught themselves how to pull themselves up tree trunks and now every generation teaches its young to do the same. Once up the tree, a lion is not only away from ground insects but can enjoy both the shade and the breeze in peace. An added bonus is this can be a great perch from which to scan the horizon for prey.

Some things go up more easily than they come down. Many lions have trouble on the descent and it is not uncommon to see a lion pacing back and forth along a branch trying to figure out how to make the return leap to earth. Occasionally, they end up tumbling over instead of making a graceful exit. Fortunately, they are cats after all, and while they may not always land on their feet (er, paws), no one has ever reported seeing a lion lose one of its nine lives this way.

12 Things You Might Not Know About Lions

  • Wild lions once roamed Europe and Asia, but none are left in Europe, and the last 300 in Asia are in a park built to protect them, so only Africa has true free-roaming lions.

  • Female lions do the hunting, but males, who guard territory, still get to eat first.

  • You can hear the roar of a lion from as far as five miles away.

  • Unlike humans, who go grey, lion manes get darker with age, which helps you tell their age at a glance.

  • More like humans, a male lion with a nice full mane attracts more potential partners.

  • When it comes to their sex lives, lions are very focused and may mate (in three-second increments) up to 100 times in a single day to ensure success.

  • Otherwise, lions aren’t overachievers: They sleep up to 20 hours a day.

  • Lions stalk their prey so closely because they can only run fast (up to 50 mph) for five to ten seconds at a time.

  • Lion eyes have a reflective material that captures moonlight and makes their night vision six times better than that of humans.

  • Lion sisters live together for life and their daughters typically stay in the same pride for life, but their sons must seek out a new pride after age two.

  • Being a male lion is tough: Most will die after being kicked out of their pride, and only one in eight live to adulthood.

  • A century ago, 200,000 lions roamed across Africa; today, fewer than 30,000 remain.

Keep your eyes peeled for lions—and maybe look up!—during your Safari Serengeti: Tanzania Lodge & Tented Safari adventure.

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