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elephant lifespan in wild

elephant lifespan in wild

elephant lifespan in wild

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elephant lifespan in wild
elephant lifespan in wild

. In fact, elephants live longer than any other land mammal, except for man. Unfortunately, a number of factors affect the life span of elephants, both in captivity and in the wild — and humans play a big part in that.

Wild Elephants

Elephants can live up to 70 years in the wild. The truth, however, is that few reach that age. According to a 2008 study published in the journal “Science,” African elephants live a median of 56 years in the wild, while Asian elephants live about 41.7 years. The shorter life span is due to poaching or illegal hunting for ivory or other uses, destruction of habitat and drought.

Elephants in Captivity

Many animals live longer in captivity than they do in the wild, simply because being captive means there are no predators around. However, the elephant is an exception. According to an article in National Geographic News, elephants in zoos live shorter lives than elephants in the wild. And the differences are pretty significant as well: an average of 17 years in a zoo against 56 in the wild. Although scientists are not sure why this happens, two possible reasons are obesity — and the health issues this carries — as well as the stress of captivity.

Factors Affecting Lifespan of Wild Elephants

Illegal poaching is a serious threat to the life of wild elephants. Destruction of habitat happens in both Asia and Africa, as humans expand cities into the elephants’ territories or eliminate sources of water.

Why Captive Life is Short

Elephants are highly social animals, and the stress of captivity often results in shortened life spans. In the wild, elephants also move constantly, migrating for miles throughout the year. The confined spaces they must live in when captive also causes them a great deal of stress. Finally, the herpes virus has also been the cause of deaths of many Asian elephants in captivity.

do elephants live longer in the wild

elephant lifespan in wild
elephant lifespan in wild

Elephants have a much longer lifespan in the wild than in captivity, according to a new study from Science.

The study, which compared female African elephants in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park with those in zoos, found that the wild elephants lived three times as long on average, surviving to a median age of 56 years compared with 17 years for elephants living in captivity. The findings were similar for Asian elephants kept in captivity to support the logging industry.


Common health problems for elephants in zoos include herpes, tuberculosis, arthritis, and obesity. The effect of captivity on this highly intelligent, social and wide-ranging species also likely has psychological effects, as sometimes evidenced by unusual aggressiveness or repetitive behaviors.


The findings of this study highlight the importance of implementing conservation strategies that ensure elephants and other species have the space and resources they need to thrive. Through its Africa Heartland Program, AWF works to combine parks, private lands and community areas into large conservation landscapes that give elephants and other wildlife the room they need to thrive. It is our belief that such large-landscape conservation is the soundest strategy for securing the future of Africa’s magnificent wildlife across the continent.

life expectancy of elephants in the wild

It was a prescient observation for a man who lived in the 1600s, as over the centuries, researchers have learned that elephants, in many ways, are just like us. They mourn their dead, cry tears of joy, and form close familial bonds.


They also have lifespans similar to our own, and today, we’re looking at some of the oldest known elephants to ever live.

Elephants are the largest land mammals currently roaming Earth — specifically Africa and Asia. As you might have already guessed, the gentle-but-giant herbivores need lots of fuel, and the average adult elephant puts down 330 pounds of vegetation a day. But when you consider that elephants weigh between 5,000 and 14,000 pounds, 330 pounds of food makes sense!

Despite their commanding size, the elephants are not all right. Due to poaching, climate change, and habitat destruction, all three extant species are on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List. African bush elephants and Asian elephants are Endangered, and African forest elephants are Critically Endangered.


The easiest way to tell African and Asian elephants apart is their ears: the former’s are much larger and shaped like the African continent; the latter’s are smaller and shaped like the Indian subcontinent!

avarege lifespan

The average lifespan for Asian elephants is 48 years. African elephants typically make it to 60 or 70.

Sadly, zoo-dwelling elephants have the shortest lifespans. A six-year study concluded that pachyderms living in European zoos die much sooner than those living in protected wildlife reserves throughout Africa and Asia. Researchers believe that captivity significantly erodes elephants’ mental health, so much so that the stress can lead to early death.

Poaching Is a Huge Threat

Though elephants live relatively long lives compared to other animals in the wild, poaching is an increasing problem for the pachyderm population. According to some reports, over 30,000 elephants are illegally killed each year for their ivory.


The situation is devastating and complicated. Corporate encroachment and urban expansion have decimated the traditional livelihoods of many communities, and regional wages meant to replace the old ways are stagnant and insufficient. But ivory black market buyers are willing to pay enough to support an impoverished family for an entire year, so poaching continues. Solving the problem will require a multifaceted plan that accounts for sociological, economic, and psychological considerations on both micro and macro scales.


Evidence suggests that Mother Nature is also working on the problem, and some scientists speculate that tuskless elephants may be climbing the evolutionary ladder. However, related research is still in its early stages, and conclusions have yet to be drawn.

Oldest Known Elephants

elephant lifespan in wild
elephant lifespan in wild

how long does an elephant live in the wild
elephants lifespan in the wild

what is the normal lifespan of an elephant


The average lifespan of elephants is about 65 years of age or more.

An elephant calf’s first year of life is its most vulnerable time with mortality rates exceeding 30%.


Carnivores (meat eaters) such as lions, hyenas, and crocodiles may prey upon young, sick, orphaned, or injured elephants. Humans are the greatest threat to all elephant populations.


Anthrax is one of the most fatal diseases impacting elephants. Anthrax is a bacterium that causes high fever, shivering, ulcers, and swellings. This disease may be spread through contaminated water or soil.

There are a host of illnesses that are specific to elephants, such as trunk paralysis and elephant pox.

Elephants are susceptible to some diseases spread by mosquitoes and to some inflictions that affect humans, such as intestinal colic, nettle rash, pneumonia, constipation, and even the common cold.


Tuberculosis is a disease caused by bacterium that affects the lungs. It is through tiny droplets in the air and can infect humans and elephants. It is characterized by chronic weight loss, nasal discharge, coughing, and diminished appetite.


When ill, elephants help themselves in a variety of ways. Digestive diseases may be treated through fasting or through natural treatments such as consuming bitter herbs, bark, or alkaline (basic) earth. Wounds may be protected from insect or worm infestation by coating them with mud.

Human Impact

The main threats to elephant populations today are habitat loss/ fragmentation and poaching.

Elephants may require a few hundred to a few thousand square kilometers of habitat as a home range. Due to the overall smaller tusk size in Asian elephants, poaching is not a primary concern to their conservation.

Poaching for Ivory

Some African tribes have utilized the water-absorbing properties of ivory as rain predictors. However, the greatest use of ivory is for the carving and creation of billiard balls, piano keys, bagpipes, buttons, and ornamental items. In 1988, the going price for ivory was between $200US and $300US per kg ($100US to $150US per lb.).

Currently it is illegal to poach elephants. As long as there is a demand for ivory, however, poaching will continue.


Poaching has led to the indiscriminate shooting of elephants of all ages, resulting in a decrease in the average tusk size of surviving elephants’ offspring. The average tusk weight for an African elephant in 1982 was 9.7 kg (21 lb.). The average tusk weight in 1988 was 5.9 kg (13 lb.). In 1990 the average weight was reportedly 3 kg (6.6 lb.). In 2004 the average weight was reportedly 3.6 kg (8 lb.).

The primary ivory-importing nations are Japan, Hong Kong, the United States and several European countries.


Unfortunately, the elephants’ home may also provide retreats for armed opposition groups during times of war and political unrest. This adversely affects elephant and other animal populations by reducing the number of areas they may safely inhabit. Funding for some civil wars is partially obtained from the sale of poached ivory.

Poaching Repercussions

Survival is a great challenge for orphaned young due to the sociological importance of maternal upbringing. The lack of guidance, leadership, and experience make orphaned young more susceptible to predators, injuries, and diseases.

Abnormal behaviors may develop in orphaned young bulls that have not benefited from proper maternal care. Documented behaviors include abnormal aggressiveness, including fatal attacks, and reproductive inexperience.

Habitat Loss

Elephant ranges throughout Africa and Asia are increasingly coming into contact with human settlements, leading to the Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC). Each year HEC poses a grave threat to both humans and elephants.

Rapid human population growth and development has fragmented many elephant habitats; thereby compressing populations into a smaller areas. Due to the large dietary requirements of elephants, the fragmented habitats may become over-exploited and damaged.

Habitat fragmentation reduces breeding opportunity thus decreasing populations and limiting genetic variability.

Crop Damage

As the human and elephant populations grow closer together in proximity, there are increased occurrences of crop raiding by elephants. Crops provide a dense amount of food in one area and are convenient for elephants. An elephant herd can satisfy all of its dietary requirements for 24 hours by spending just seven or eight hours in a cultivated field.

elephant lifespan in wild
elephant lifespan in wild

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Many field owners can lose an entire year’s crop in just one night of these raids in addition to risking starvation for themselves and their families. A herd of 20 elephants can eat and trample down two hectares (five acres) of crops in a single night. Commercial agricultural crops, such as oil palm and rubber, can net millions of dollars in losses annually.

Woodland Destruction

There has been significant debate in regards to woodland destruction by elephants. Elephants debark and push over trees for feeding and strength trials. Damaged trees may be susceptible to wood-boring insects and fungi, as well as wind and brushfire damage. There is no consensus as to whether elephant feeding is the sole cause of woodland damage. Other factors such as a rising water table, causing increased soil salinity may result in difficulty for tree roots to absorb water. Additionally, there is evidence that fire caused by drought significantly alters trees’ propagation. Therefore the challenge of tree regeneration may not be directly attributed to elephant feeding habits. There is argument not only about what causes woodland damage, but how to solve it and whether or not it is a part of natural elephant vegetation cycles.

Contaminated Water Sources

Due to the increasing number of elephant populations in increasingly smaller areas, many elephant populations share limited resources. Overcrowding can lead to contamination of water resources and increased occurrences of parasitic diseases.


Culling is the legalized killing of an animal and is a controversial and debated topic.

Deer, like many animals, if they overpopulate have to go further to search for food. These searches often lead them into cities and highways, which may increase human-conflicts and/or getting injured by vehicles. Legal hunting is a preventative measure that averts deer from becoming overpopulated and reduces instances of starvation and injuries.


Overall, African elephant populations are classified as threatened. The justification for culling is generally that the number of individuals has surpassed the habitat’s carrying capacity (the amount of available resources that a habitat has to sustain life). Culling is not an indication of the overall conservation status of a species

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