Elephants are imposing animals. These large animals fascinate many people. But what is an elephant lifespan? Does this vary by species? And do elephants living in captivity become as old as their counterparts roaming free in the wild? In this article you can read all about the life expectancy of elephants in all living situations.
You may also want to read what types of eagles there are on our planet.
Average life expectancy elephant, elephant lifespan
The average elephant lives for decades. This is the normal elephant lifespan. Of course, the life expectancy greatly depends on the living conditions. An average elephant lives to be about 50 to 70 years old. However, there are also outliers upward. For example, the oldest elephant known is Alice (lived in Australia) who died in 1941 at the age of no less than 157 years!
Not every species of elephant has the same life expectancy. One breed gets older than the other. This has to do with the build and habitat of the different breeds. The Asian elephant has the lowest life expectancy with an average age of about 50 years. Other species live to be about 60 to even 70 years old.
Elephant species Life expectancy, elephant lifespan
-African elephant 60 – 70 years
-Asian elephant +/- 50 years
-Elephant in captivity lives shorter
Research has shown that elephants living in captivity live shorter lives than their counterparts living freely in the wild or in national parks. In European zoos, elephants do not even reach the age of 20 years on average. It also appears that the death rate for new-born calves in zoos is significantly higher than in the wild.
In zoos, on average, not even half of the young reach the age of one year. This is because adult elephants in captivity are more likely to kick their young to death. In the wild, the proportion of young that survive the first year is much higher. Depending on the area, this number rises to more than 80%.
The elephant lifespan and age is determined by its teeth, unless it dies earlier from another cause of death. In most cases, elephants have 26 teeth. Two tusks (incisors) and 24 molars. But elephants, like us humans and like most mammals, do not initially have baby teeth that are then exchanged for adult teeth. The elephant has a cycle of tooth rotation during its lifetime.
New molar teeth grow at the back and move forward one place at a time. When they are at the front they eventually fall out. During an elephant’s life, its teeth fall out about six times. The last set of teeth is for the rest of its life. Eventually, when an elephant runs out of molars to chew with, it dies of malnutrition. He can still find enough food, but can no longer process it.
Common natural causes of elephant death are inflammation, cardiovascular disease and other infectious diseases. But also general weakening when drought lasts too long, for example. Unfortunately, the main cause of elephant death is often humans.
The ears, like many elephant body parts, have many functions. Hearing is the most important, of course, and an elephant can listen very well; they can even hear sounds from miles away. In addition, the ears act as a fan, to cool the elephant’s huge body. The size of the ears plays an important role in this.
African elephants live mainly on the open plains and there is little shade there, so African elephants flap their ears, through which many blood vessels run. The flapping cools the blood and dissipates body heat. The elephant’s skin on the inside of the ears is only 1 to 2 mm thick. The African forest elephant can shelter from the sun in its habitat and therefore has smaller ears.
Elephants also use their ears to threaten. When the ears are wide it is a serious warning and it makes the elephant appear larger.
Elephants are also called pachyderms (thick skins) along with rhinoceroses and hippopotami, but this ancient classification is not often used. But it says something about an elephant’s skin, it can be between 2 and 4 inches thick, which is not that much, considering the huge animal that is “underneath.
Some Asian elephants have light spots, especially on their trunks and ears. This is due to aging, but it does not bother the elephant. These light spots are called pigment spots.
Especially in the Sri Lankan elephant, the white/pink pigment spots are characteristic of this subspecies of Asian elephant. Some elephants are fairly pale from birth, called white elephants. But they are not really white (they are not albinos, like the white bunnies you often see). In Thailand, people consider these white elephants so special that they are automatically owned by the king. When they are captured, they stay in special stables in the royal palace, where the elephants live a very boring life….
An elephant has no sweat or sebaceous glands, so it must bathe often. Then elephants take mud or dust baths to keep their skin supple.
It makes sense that elephants have very sturdy bones to support their huge bodies. The elephant’s skull is very large. If the skull were as heavy as the other bones and bones, elephants would hardly be able to lift their heads. That is why there are cavities inside, filled with air (sinuses), which reduces the weight considerably.