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Zoo animal life expectancies

Zoo animal life expectancies vary greatly depending on species, habitat, diet, and quality of care provided by the zoo. Generally, animals in accredited zoos tend to live longer than their counterparts in the wild due to access to veterinary care, a controlled diet, protection from predators, and a lack of natural threats such as diseases or habitat destruction. However, it's important to note that not all species thrive in captivity, and some may experience health issues or behavioral problems due to confinement.

In zoos, large mammals like elephants, big cats, and primates often have longer lifespans compared to their wild counterparts, with some individuals living well into their 40s or even 50s. For example, Asian elephants in captivity can live up to 60 years, while in the wild, their average lifespan is around 48 years. Similarly, lions and tigers in zoos may live into their late teens or early 20s, whereas their wild counterparts typically have shorter lifespans due to factors such as competition, predation, and disease.

Smaller animals like birds, reptiles, and fish also benefit from the controlled environment of zoos, with many species surpassing their wild counterparts' lifespans. For instance, some parrot species can live over 50 years in captivity, whereas in the wild, their lifespans are generally shorter due to predation and habitat loss.

Despite efforts to replicate natural habitats and provide quality care, some species still face challenges in captivity, leading to shorter lifespans or health issues. Factors such as stress, inadequate diet, limited space, and breeding difficulties can affect the overall health and longevity of zoo animals.

The chart below created by Reddit user LuisaViz shows the minimum and maximum or median life expectancy estimates of selected animals in zoos.

For creating this visualization, longevity estimates are derived from studbooks for the animal population in North American zoos and aquariums. Existing large-scale datasets on animal lifespans from wild population mostly consist of maximum longevity values and therefore are not comparable with median life expectancy estimates depicted here.

Want to learn more about animals? Then have a look a the following books:

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