Depending on the kind of elephant in question as well as the area in which it lives, the average lifetime of an elephant might vary considerably.
The lifespans of the African and Asian subspecies of elephants are summarized in the following article, along with a discussion of the many variables that might affect an elephant’s lifespan.
A Quick Crash Course in Elephants
Africa and Asia are home to the world’s biggest land animals, which are elephants. The gentle but enormous herbivores require a lot of energy, as you may have already realized, and an adult elephant typically consumes 330 pounds of vegetables per day.
But 330 pounds of food makes sense when you realize that an elephant may weigh anywhere between 5,000 and 14,000 pounds!
Even though they are enormous, the elephants are not in good shape. All three of the existing species are listed on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature because of habitat loss, climate change, and poaching. African forest elephants are critically endangered, whereas Asian and African bush elephants are also in risk of extinction.
Elephants from different continents may be distinguished by their ears, which are bigger and more formed like Africa on the former and smaller and more shaped like the Indian subcontinent on the latter.
Elephants in Captivity
Simply because there are no predators around while an animal is in captivity, many species live longer in captivity than they do in the wild. The elephant is an exception, though. Elephants in zoos have lower lifespans than elephants in the wild, according to a National Geographic News report.
Additionally, there are some very big differences: an average of 17 years in a zoo compared to 56 years in the wild. Although experts do not fully understand why this occurs, obesity and the associated health problems as well as the stress of confinement are two potential causes.
Average Lifespan Of Elephants in Captivity
Compared to their wild counterparts, caged elephants have substantially lower average ages. Depending on the species, the average age of wild elephants in Africa and Asia ranges from 60 to 70 years. Individuals in captivity often do not live above the age of 40 (Lahdenperä 2018, NatGeo).
This is concerning because cows in captivity are taking longer, if at all, to reproduce than they would in the wild, where elephants normally begin mating at approximately the age of 12. When compared to wild animals, the cows’ period for reproduction is reduced by more than 20 years due to their 40-year lifespan.
As a result, breeding elephants in captivity has an extremely poor success rate, and the mortality rates of the calves are very high. For instance, 11 African elephants were born in zoos in 1998.
Only three of the eleven calves were still alive in 2003. Apart from the fact that caged elephants have a short lifespan, there are a number of additional factors that affect an elephant’s life expectancy.
How Long do Elephants Live
Elephants are in risk of extinction, as was previously mentioned. An elephant may currently live up to 70 years old in the wild. Elephants are one of the longest-living terrestrial animals, second only to humans. The longest-living animal lives in the water rather than on land. The bowhead whale has a 200-year lifespan.
Elephants may live up to 70 years, but there are other things to take into account. The average lifespan of an African elephant in the wild is 56 years. Asian elephants, on the other hand, have a median lifespan of 41 years.
Elephants have varied life spans in the wild and in zoos, according to research. According to National Geographic, elephants living in protected African and Asian habitats had longer lifespans than those living in zoos. Zoo elephant females only live 19 years on average.
Oldest Known Elephants
Because the previous record-holder, Dakshayani, died in 2019 at the ripe old age of 88, no one is certain which animal is presently the oldest elephant alive. The epidemic began to spread soon after his passing, and a new monarch has not yet been chosen.
Raju, an Asian elephant saved by Wildlife SOS in 2014, may be the front-runner based on our findings. His doctor estimates his age at around 50. Raju was a slave elephant, and when Wildlife SOS workers freed him of his chains, Raju reportedly wept with delight.
Raju may be the world’s oldest elephant, although that likelihood isn’t very high. There is probably a pachyderm living in the wild that is over 60 years old and has managed to avoid being killed by poachers.
African Elephant Average Lifespan
The Savanna Elephant (Loxodonta africana) and the Forest Elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) of Africa both have almost the same average lifetime. A Savanna elephant typically lives for 70 years, but a Forest elephant typically lives for 60 years (Loxodonta cyclotis).
The two kinds of elephants maintain a similar life cycle even though they inhabit distinct habitats in the wild. Bushland, savannah grassland, and forest make up the Savanna Elephant’s normal habitat. The Forest Elephant, however, lives in lush lowland forests (Macdonald 2010).
Similar life cycles are experienced by both species, which begin with the longest gestation time of any mammals. The elephant is pregnant for the longest amount of time of any animal on the earth, lasting 22 months. The tiny calves can stand in 20 minutes, and within a day or two, they are prepared to complete the walk with the rest of the herd (nabu, WWF, WWFa, WWFb).
The calves only consume their mother’s milk for the first three months before beginning to graze. However, calf mothers can wean their young up to the age of four (WWFa, WWFb). It is understood that mothers of savanna elephants may nurse their offspring for up to 6 years.
The mother can reproduce once the calf is autonomous and not needing to be nursed. Although an elephant cow may give birth until the age of 65, on average she will have 6 children throughout her lifetime, but this number can reach 12.
According to study, up to the age of 8, calves of forest elephants seldom stray more than a few meters from their mother (WWFa).
Asian Elephant Average Lifespan
An Asian elephant typically lives for 60 years (NatGeo, WWFc). Whether there are changes in longevity between the subspecies is unknown at this time.
Although the four subspecies live in various settings, they appear to have the same life cycle. The Sumatran elephant (E. m. sumatranus), the Sri-Lankan elephant (E. m. maximus), the Borneo pygmy elephant (E. m. borneensis), and the Indian elephant (E. m. indicus) all inhabit in different parts of Asia’s continent (NatGeo, Fernando et al. 2003).
Evergreen and dry deciduous forests, scrub jungle, grasslands, and swamps are all parts of their native habitat. Asian elephants may be found up to 3,000 meters (10.000 feet) above sea level (Macdonald 2010).
What Is the Average Lifespan of an Elephant?
Asian elephants live for 48 years on average. African elephants usually live to be 60 or 70 years old.
Sadly, elephants who live in zoos have the lowest lifespans. According to a six-year research, pachyderms in European zoos pass away far sooner than those in Africa and Asia’s protected nature areas. According to research, elephants’ mental health is severely deteriorated in captivity, to the point where the stress might cause an early death.
According to a thorough research, female elephants born in zoos typically lived for 17 years, but those born in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park lived for an average of 56 years.
For Asian elephants, half of those born in zoos died by the time they were 19 years old, whereas those born in the wild lived to be 42 years old. Elephants prefer to live in big herds, but in zoos there are usually only 2 or 3 other elephants available for interaction.
What Shortens the Lifespan of an Elephant?
The challenges elephants confront that reduce their longevity determine how long they live. Elephants in the wild face the possibility of dying through poaching or confrontations with humans. But zoo elephants face the danger of not being able to support themselves.
Poaching. Elephants in the wild run the risk of being stolen. Asian elephants exclusively have tusks on the males; both male and female African elephants have tusks. Elephants are killed by poachers so that their tusks can be taken. Then, these tusks are sold illegally in other countries’ marketplaces. Every year, almost 200,000 elephants are stolen.
Human-elephant disputes It is possible for people and elephants to coexist peacefully. There are, however, times when they could clash. Elephants have less places to roam as a result of the increasing deforestation and may accidentally enter areas occupied by people.
Conflicts between elephants and people may result from this. Elephants and people alike are at risk of dying because of habitat destruction.
In zoos, not self-sustaining. Elephants in zoos have had difficulty reproducing. The figures are rather concerning; infertility rates have increased from 22% to 45% in only seven years. Elephants kept in captivity have little exercise and eat a high-calorie diet, which contributes to their irregular menstrual cycles.
Female African Elephant Lifespan
African elephant females live their entire lives in their mother’s herd. There is a variation in the life histories of the two species, with female Forest Elephants appearing to have a slower birth rate. First of all, this is due to the differing ages at which the females of the two species begin mating.
At approximately age 12, the Savannah elephant gives birth. However, it has been hypothesized that Forest Elephants don’t reproduce until they are about 23 years old. Second, it has been discovered that the Forest Elephant cows have longer gaps between calves.
Every 3–4 years on average, Savannah Elephant cows give birth to a new calf, as opposed to every 5–6 years for Forest Elephants (Turkalo et al. 2017, nabu, WWF, WWFb).
More details on the life cycle of Savannah Elephant cows, particularly their periodic cycles, are known.
Female elephants have regular cycles that last 16 weeks and have a possible receptive window of 2-3 days (WWFb). Female Savannah Elephants are most productive between the ages of 25 and 45, and after turning 40, their fertility starts to decline until they reach roughly 60, at which point they cease breeding.
Why wild elephant lifespans are shortening
Despite having an average lifespan that is higher than that of captive elephants, the lives of wild elephants are frequently cut short by poaching or illegal hunting.
These creatures are in danger of going extinct as a result of humanity’s greed for profit. Difficulties in the life of elephants are further increased by habitat degradation and drought (an effect of climate change).
Male African Elephant Lifespan
Male African elephants, often known as bulls, spend the most of their lives wandering free with other males. African elephant males begin leaving the herd around the age of 8 to 9 but return sometimes until they are 14 to 16 years old, at which point they entirely depart from the group (WWFa, WWFb).
The young bulls will go through their first Musth at that point, when they join loose groupings of other males.
Elephant bulls that have the disease musth have increased sexual desire. The Musth, which appears between the ages of 15 and 20, is an indication of both sexual availability and general health (Ananth 2000, WWF, WWFb). The monthly ailment known as musth lasts until roughly 65 years of age.
Bulls with this illness exhibit significant levels of aggression because to an increase in hormones. Increased awareness, widening ears, roaming eyes, tight and stiff bodies, and a propensity toward a more destructive and pursuing attitude are examples of typical behavior.
The bulls have a very high need to mate overall at these times (Ananth 2000).
Early Musth periods are brief, lasting just a few days, while later in life, they often last between three and four months.
The younger bulls won’t have many opportunities to reproduce in the wild, but once they are between the ages of 30-35 and have developed stronger bodies, they will be able to mate successfully (Ananth 2000, WWFb). At ages 40 to 55, bulls normally produce at their maximum rates (WWFb).
Factors Affecting Lifespan of Wild Elephants
Wild elephants are seriously threatened by illegal poaching. Elephants are hunted for a variety of reasons, although males are most commonly targeted for their tusks. According to the charity Ele Aid, Asian elephants are also slaughtered for their skin, which is used to build expensive furniture in Asia as well as for medicinal purposes.
Humans move cities into elephant habitats or remove water supplies, causing habitat destruction in both Asia and Africa.
Female Asian Elephant Lifespan
An Asian elephant typically takes 20 months to gestate, which is comparable to the gestation time of an African elephant (WWF, WWFc). The calves typically start eating after a few months and are weaned until they are 3 years old. They could remain close to their mother until they are 4 years old (WWF, WWFc).
The mother is prepared to give birth to more children after she has done breastfeeding. Consequently, an Asian Elephant cow may have a new calf every three to four years (WWF).
An elephant cow may give birth for the first time between the ages of 10 and 12 and may continue to do so up until the age of 50 to 55. (WWFc). The intervals between calves lengthen as the cow ages.
The ivory trade
Elephant populations have suffered greatly as a result of the illicit ivory trade during the 20th century, and their numbers have considerably decreased. Although poaching is a constant worry, elephant numbers are more stable now than they have been in prior decades.
Poaching Is a Huge Threat
Although elephants have longer lifespans than most other wild species, poaching is becoming a bigger issue for the population of pachyderms. Over 30,000 elephants are reportedly illegally murdered every year for their ivory, according to some accounts.
It’s a terrible and confusing scenario. Many communities’ traditional means of subsistence have been destroyed by corporate invasion and urban growth, and the regional salaries that were supposed to replace them are stagnant and inadequate.
However, poaching persists because there are enough purchasers of ivory on the black market who are ready to pay for a family’s subsistence for an entire year. A multidimensional strategy that takes into account social, economic, and psychological factors on both the micro and macro levels will be necessary to solve the problem.
Scientists believe that tuskless elephants may be moving up the evolutionary ladder and that there is evidence that Mother Nature is also attempting to solve the issue. However, the study in this area is still in its infancy, and no conclusions have been made.
How can we Protect Elephants
More than ever, elephant protection is crucial! Elephants are essential to their habitats. They create holes to collect water, which helps other animals have access to water. Elephants eat a lot of foliage during the day, which helps young plants flourish and thrive.
By funding our study on elephants, you aid in their preservation. For Elephants researches the most effective conservation methods for both zoo and wild elephants. If you want to help, you may donate money or buy our clothing right now to spread awareness!