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21 January 2014, 17:28
If you’ve ever wondered what the big cats get up to when the visitors have gone home these extraordinary images from Longleat Safari & Adventure Park reveal a hidden side to the world-famous pride.
The set of photos, which were taken by Longleat keeper Ian Turner while the Wiltshire park was closed to the public, capture the amazing moment a trio of daredevil lions decided to climb to the top of a 10-metre-tall oak tree.
Ian Turner said:
'I was busy taking photos of some new cubs which were venturing outside for the first time when the other keepers alerted me that something unusual was happening elsewhere in the enclosure.
'One female seemed to be the leader and she went up first, then once she had reached the top the other two just followed her up. It’s not unusual for one or other of the lions to climb up one of the smaller trees, but this wasn’t a small tree.
'There wasn’t a lot of room at the top and we just expected them to climb back down again.
'However they seemed to have a different idea, and the first female simply leapt off the top. “It all happened very quickly, but when I was able to study the images afterwards you can see that, just like a domestic cat, she was able to rotate her legs around in mid-air and land on all four paws.
'The second lion soon followed her down in similar fashion, but the third one was a lot less confident and, after spending several minutes alone up there, she decided to climb back down. “
't’s something none of us have ever witnessed before and it was just total coincidence that I was there and able to capture it.'
Female lions usually reach their full size by the age of three. Adult lions can weigh up to 200 kgs and grow to lengths in excess of three metres.