The average lifespan of an elephant in the wild is around 50 to 70 years. A recent study had the median lifespan of an African elephant at 56 years. However, some African elephants have been known to live for up to 80 years.
Elephants are one of the longest-lived land animals. African elephants generally have a longer lifespan than Asian elephants. Female elephants tend to live longer than males.
Elephants in the wild face many dangers, such as predators, hunger, and disease. These factors can shorten their lifespan. Humans also pose a threat to elephants. Hunting and illegal poaching are major threats to wild populations.
In addition, habitat loss and fragmentation due to human activity can also reduce the lifespan of elephants.
Read on to find out more fascinating facts about the lifespan of Elephants.
Lifespan of Wild Elephants
African elephants and African bush elephants are the largest living land animals. They are also some of the longest-lived mammals. The typical lifespan of an African elephant in the wild is around 50 to 70 years. Female African elephants tend to live longer than male elephants.
A recent study published in 2016 had the median lifespan of an African elephant at 56 years. The oldest African elephant on record was “Lin Wang”, who died at the age of 86. Lin Wang was a captive elephant who was captured in Sudan in 1937. He was brought to Taiwan where he lived for many years. He died in 2003. African elephants live in sub-Saharan Africa.
Asian elephants live in the forests of South and Southeast Asia. The typical lifespan of an Asian elephant in the wild is around 48 years. Asian elephants born in captivity tend to have a shorter lifespan than those in the wild.
In 2019, news of Dakshayani, an Asian elephant’s death surfaced, he passed away at age 88 and was not only the oldest elephant in captivity, but the oldest ever elephant to roam the earth.
Lifespan of Elephants in Captivity (Zoo Elephants)
Elephants in captivity often have a much shorter lifespan than their wild counterparts. A study of captive elephants in North America found that the median lifespan of a caged elephant was just 17 years. The main causes of death for captive elephants are chronic health problems and infectious diseases.
Why Captive Elephants face Shorter Lives
Other main reasons for the shorter lifespan of elephants in captivity is that they are often kept in unsuitable conditions. Captive elephants are often kept in small cages or pens that do not allow them to move around freely.
This can lead to health problems such as obesity, joint problems, and foot infections as they don’t get as much exercise as wild elephants.
In addition, captive elephants are often subjected to stressful situations such as being chained up, being separated from their family groups, and being forced to perform tricks (in zoos).
What Affects the Lifespan of Elephants?
A part from elephants being wild animals by nature, their long lifespan is attributed to certain factors. These include:
- A Good Diet: Elephants are herbivores and their diet consists of leaves, bark, roots, and grasses. This diet is rich in nutrients that help to keep them healthy and promote a long life.
- A Healthy Lifestyle: Elephants live a very active lifestyle. They walk long distances every day in search of food and water. This helps to keep their bodies healthy and fit.
- A Strong Social Structure: Elephants live in family groups (referred to as herds) consisting of related females and their young. These groups provide support and protection for each other. The bonds between elephants are very strong and can last a lifetime.
- A Good Environment: Elephants need a large home range in order to find enough food and water. They also need a good environment for raising their young.
Threats to an Elephant’s life
Despite all of the factors that promote a long life for elephants, there are also many threats that can shorten their lifespan. These include:
- Habitat loss and fragmentation: As humans continue to develop land for agriculture, housing, and industry, elephants are losing their natural habitat. This reduces the areas where they can find food and water, and also increases their contact with humans (which can lead to conflict).
- Illegal hunting and poaching: Elephants are illegally hunted for their ivory tusks. This unlawful trade is the biggest threat to elephants as it reduces their population.
- Human-elephant conflict: As human populations grow, there is an increased risk of conflict between humans and elephants. This can happen when elephants damage crops or property, or when they injure or kill people.
Oldest Known Age of an Elephant
While life expectancy varies based on the species, sex, and individual health of an elephant
Here is a list of 12 of the oldest elephants to ever live. It includes the oldest African Bush elephant, the oldest surviving bull elephant in North America (I’ve seen him live!), and more:
- Chengalloor Dakshayani (88 years old): The oldest elephant to ever live in captivity with a lifespan ranging from 1930 to 2019.
- Lin Wang (86 years old): An elephant that lived from 1917 to 2003. Lin Wang served in World War II and lived out the remainder of his life at the Taipei Zoo in Taiwan.
- Rani (83 years old): Born in 1938, Rani lived at a zoo in Hyderabad India until her passing in June 2021.
- Shirley (72 years old): Captured in Sumatra in 1948, Shirley spent years in the circus before retiring to an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee in 1999. At the time of her passing in 2021, Shirley was 72 years old and the second oldest elephant in North America.
- Ambika (72 years old): An elephant gifted from India to the United States that lived at the National Zoo in Washington DC. Ambika passed away in March 2020.
- Saigon (62 years old): One of Australia’s last surviving circus elephants. Saigon can be found at the Sydney Zoo in Australia.
- Mary (57 years old): Currently living at the San Diego Zoo in California.
- Tyranza (56 years old): Was an African elephant in the Memphis Zoo that passed away in 2020. At the time of Tyranza’s death, she was the oldest African elephant in North America.
- Dari (55 years old): An African elephant in Salt Lake City’s Hogle Zoo that made it to 55 years old. Dari passed away in 2015.
- Dalip (55 years old): The oldest surviving bull elephant in North America. As of 2021, Dalip can still be found at Zoo Miami.
- Casey (52 years old): The oldest ever recorded African Bush elephant in captivity. Casey lived in the Kansas City Zoo and lived from 1951 to 2003.
- Sophie (52 years old): One of the oldest African elephants in captivity in North America in November 2020.
How can we help elephants live longer lives
There are many ways that we can help elephants live longer lives. One way is to support organizations that are working to protect elephants in the wild. Another way is to educate others about the threats that elephants face and what we can do to help them.
Frequently Asked Questions about Elephants Lifespan
Here are some of the most Googled questions (and answers!) about Elephants Lifespan:
For Asian elephants the average lifespan is 47 years old while for African elephants the average lifespan is 56 years old. However, it is thought that elephants in the wild can live up to 100 years old.
The oldest elephant on record (Dakshayani) lived to 88 years old.
The oldest elephant on record lived to be 88 years old. However, it is thought that elephants in the wild can live up to 100 years old.
In captivity, elephants can live up to 50 years old.
Yes, elephants can live up to 70 years old, both in the wild and in captivity.
Although there are currently no wild elephants in North America, some scientists (American ones we should add) have argued that it would be possible for Asian elephants to survive in North America.