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Pride comes before a fall for tree lions

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 22, 2014

Longleat safari park keeper Ian Turner captured this extraordinary picture of a lion freefalling to the ground from the top of a tree in the park grounds

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It's an issue many a fireman has had to contend with – the old cat-stuck-up-a-tree problem.

Except keepers at Longleat had to deal with a slightly riskier proposition after several lions decided to climb an oak in their enclosure.

Fortunately, after a few minutes the big cats decided they didn't need rescuing and promptly jumped out of the tree from 30ft up – freefalling all the way down.

This astonishing picture, which shows one of the lions in full flight, was captured by the expert eye of keeper Ian Turner while the Wiltshire safari park was closed to the public.

"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," said Ian.

"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," he added.

Despite being taller than a double-decker bus, the tree didn't seem to provide them with too much of a challenge, but it was what happened next that really took everyone by surprise.

"There wasn't a lot of room at the top and we just expected them to climb back down again," said Ian. "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.

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