Lioness Teaches Tiny Cubs to Climb Tree

These brand-new baby lion cubs desperately try to reach their mother, after she calls them to join her at the top of a tree.


Book a Safari to MalaMala Game Reserve

Michael Moth, a guide at MalaMala Game Reserve, was able to capture this cute sighting. Michael shared the footage and story with

All content by Michael Moth

After discovering that one of the resident lionesses had given birth to a cute litter of cubs, everyone was excited to see them. The guides at MalaMala had given the mother and cubs some space in their first few days, just so that the mother was not under any stress. However, on this particular day, the mother lion decided that she was now ready to show her cubs.

As the group got into one of the dry riverbeds and scanned for a bit, the sound of a mother lion caught Michael’s attention. They approached the calls and were greeted by the cutest little lion cubs playing with each other. At this point, their mother was already standing in a tree.

She looked down on her cubs and let out some low-toned calls. She was letting her little ones know that she was up above them. With their small legs, the cubs frantically ran around the base of this tree, looking up at mom and letting out their cute contact calls. It sounded as though mom was trying to communicate with her cubs and tell them to come up.

The little ones, with their tiny legs and small size, thought that this was an impossible task. They found a much smaller branch of the tree that had fallen and thought that this was more achievable. With all the determination in the world, they amazingly climbed it with ease and looked over to Mom. However, their mother wanted them over in the bigger tree. She wanted to teach them the skill that not many lions have: climbing a tree.

Leopards are cats that are known for climbing trees, not lions. However, lions have been observed climbing trees on occasion. Sometimes to steal a kill of a leopard that was left in a low enough branch, and other times just for a bit of fun and games.

The lioness kept calling her cubs, and one of them understood that mom meant bossiness. So, off it went to the base of the tree its mother climbed. the cub looked up, and to it, this was an enormous task, but it wasn’t turning back now. One paw at a time, it began climbing, digging its tiny claws into the bark, and inch by inch the little one got closer and closer. It slowly made its way up until it was only just out of reach of its mom.

You could see the great sense of achievement on the cub’s face when it took the last step. Its mother stood there, proud. She first licked it and gave it a nod of approval, almost as if saying “Well done.” Then she patted the cub’s head and gave it a final lick. The cub’s siblings also wanted some of that love and mom’s affection, so they hurried to the tree as well.

The cub that managed to climb up now looked down and realized that it was really high up, and maybe it was best if it went back down. It began slowly making the descent, all while its siblings were trying to make their way up. However, none of its siblings were able to make it as high as it did. One of them reached halfway to Mom, while the other could barely make it past a few inches off the ground.

In the end, the mom came down proud of all her cubs. Each of them put in an excellent effort in learning this new skill. Some learned it better than others but in the end, every one of these cubs learned a valuable lesson that may one day help them in their lives of survival.