Lioness with a head for heights

FEARLESS Kiana is a lioness with a head for heights – the eight year old Longleat lioness climbed a 20 metre tall sycamore tree in the safari park.

She seemed more like a mountain lion as she made short work of went up the giant tree in her wooded enclosure. Keepers say she has always been a keen climber ever since she was a cub but they have never seen any of the lions venture quite so far off the ground.

“Many of our lionesses do go up trees here at Longleat but there are a few particular individuals who seem to do it just for fun and Kiana is definitely one of those,” said keeper Caleb Hall, who captured Kiana’s feat on film. “She’s definitely in a class of her own when it comes to climbing and she seemed perfectly at home up there as she fearlessly made her way from branch to branch.”

As part of the lions’ environmental enrichment their keepers will often hide food among the branches as it provides a good workout and allows them to use muscles required for hunting and grabbing hold of prey.

“Kiana’s definitely a star performer and doesn’t need the added incentive of a meal to head into the canopy,” said Caleb. “It’s mainly the females who make all the effort but we have seen our male lions climb trees for food, which would also happen in the wild to steal the stashed kills of leopards.”

Lions have been living at Longleat since 1966 when it became the first place outside of Africa to open a drive-through safari. Today it is home to two separate prides as well as cheetahs, tigers, wolves, rhinos, zebras and giraffes.

Large male lions can grow to more than three metres in length and weigh more than 240kgs while females are just under two metres long and reach a maximum of 180kgs. Their life expectancy in the wild is approximately 12 years but they can expect to live to almost twice that age in captivity.