What is an Elephant's Lifespan?
Elephants are large mammals which have a great impact on the ecology in which they exist and have been a fascinating subject for zoologists for centuries. Images of them have even been found way back in the Palaeolithic period. They are incredibly clever and have been proven by some scientific studies to be empathetic. They certainly have some behaviors which are characteristically similar to humans, even choosing a dominant tusk in the same way humans are left or right-handed.
They do not have any natural predators in the wild, but, unfortunately, hunting for ivory has seriously depleted their population. Elephants kept in captivity are also known to have shorter life spans, so here at AnimalWised.com we will answer the question of What is an Elephant's Lifespan? and find out what factors can effect its longevity.
The Life Expectancy of an Elephant
Elephants are very long-lived animals; on average, they can live for 40 to 60 years in their natural habitat. There is even evidence suggesting that in some isolated cases, in Kenya for example, they have reached 80-90 years old.
As with any other animal (including humans), the elephant's life expectancy varies depending on the country in which it lives and its surrounding environment. These animals have no natural enemies, except man. In some cases, humans have reduced their average life expectancy to 35 years.
One thing that concerns elephant protection centres is that an elephant's life expectancy is reduced too much in captivity. Elephants live to a maximum of 19 to 20 years old even in the best zoo conditions, which is a drastic decrease compared to their wild counterparts. This is contrary to what happens with most species, which have an increased life expectancy in captivity.
Factors Which Reduce the Life Expectancy of Elephants
As mentioned before, one of the biggest factors that prevent this majestic animal from living until 50 years of age or more is man. Overhunting, caused by the ivory trade, is one of the elephant's main threats, which greatly reduces the life expectancy of these animals.
Another factor that prevents elephants from living longer is that their teeth start wearing down from around the age of 40, which prevents them from eating normally and can lead to malnutrition and death. Once they have used their last set of teeth, unfortunately death is inevitable.
There are also other health factors that prevent elephants from living longer, such as arthritis and vascular problems - both factors are associated to their size and weight. In captivity, life expectancy is reduced to more than half. This happens due to stress, a lack of exercise and extreme obesity.
Fun Facts About the Lives of Elephants
- The longest-living documented case of an elephant was that of Lin Wang; an elephant that was used by Chinese Expeditionary Forces in the Second Sino-Japanese War. In captivity, this animal surprisingly managed to reach 86 years old.
- Elephants are the animal with the longest pregnancy, lasting 22 months from conception to birth. They rarely have more than 4 children over a lifespan and, considering a baby elephant can weigh over 230 lbs at birth, perhaps we can understand why.
- The padding on a elephant's feet is very soft and is used as a cushion for their massive weight. These act like sneakers, so it possible for an elephant to walk silently despite being so heavy.
From one of the largest living animals, to one of the smallest, why not check out this article on How Long Do Fleas Live For?
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