Question: How long do lions live?
In the wild, the lion can, on average, live about 14 to 15 years whereas a lion in captivity can live for more than 20 years.
The Life Expectancy of the Lion
A lion’s life expectancy can differ depending on a number of factors, including wild versus captivity, male versus female, and subspecies.
Lions in the Wild
Let’s take a look at the life expectancies between different subspecies:
In the wild, the African lion usually lives no more than 10 to 15 years because of their exposure to other lions and human poachers, and the need to find their own food and water for survival. Unfortunately, only about 1 in 8 male lion cubs will survive adulthood and this is because the lion cub experiences many challenges, including injuries, food shortage, illness, and the unfortunate case of being killed by an adult lion.
Asiatic lions who exist in India’s protected Gir Forest have a lifespan of around 16 to 18 years. In 2010, the adult survival rate of the asiatic lion was at 92 percent and mortality was around 66 percent, mostly due to natural causes. However, a report found at least 21 percent of deaths were a result of accidents outside the protected area, including lions falling down open wells on farmland, being run over by a train and poisoning after drinking contaminated water.
Lions in Captivity
In captivity, a lion can live up to as much as 25 years, almost doubling the life expectancy of a lion living in the wild. This is because in a zoo or controlled environment the lion does not have to be on the look out for predators and protect their food from uninvited visitors. Life in the wild can be stressful and they face many challenges to survive in the sometimes unforgiving desert. Unlike the captive lion who is under constant surveillance with regular health checks and, like humans, will undergo surgery to fix any illness or injury the lion may have.
Male versus Female
On average, the female lion will live 50 percent more than their male counterpart. Studies suggest this is because female lionesses live together in a pride, hunt together and protect one another, as opposed to the male lion who often lives alone and will occasionally engage in fights with other males. However, there is yet to be any research into whether this uneven balance can be found with captive male and female lions.
A wild white lion’s life expectancy is no different to the sandy-colored lion with a lifespan of approximately 14 to 15 years. However, the white lion faces more challenges than its sandy sibling, including color and rarity. Due to the lightened color of their fur, they lose the ability to camouflage into their surroundings thus exposing them to predators and compromising their hunting ability.
Another major factor is that the white lion is often the target for poaching and commercial trophy hunting due to its rarity and has made them virtually extinct. Today, most white lions can only be seen in captivity where they can expect a life expectancy of around 16.8 years, according to the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.
While the wild lion faces starvation, the captive lion faces problems with obesity due to their inactivity and constant food source. Unlike the wild lion, a captive lion is continuously fed without having to hunt for their prey and as a result, they become lethargic and depressed negatively affecting their longevity.
Frequently Asked Questions
People who ask, ‘How long do Lions live?’ also ask;
How old was the oldest lion to have lived?
Some records indicate that a female African lion named Zenda was probably the world’s oldest lion. Zenda was held in captivity at Philadelphia Zoo, USA and lived to be 25 years old. However, in 2018, India’s oldest lion in captivity at Bhopal’s Van Vihar National Park died at 28 years old crowning him the oldest lion to have lived so far.
How long does a lion live in captivity?
In captivity, a lion can live up to as much as 25 years, almost doubling the life expectancy of a lion living in the wild.
Do lions ever die of old age?
Yes, however, only about 1 in 8 male lion cubs will survive adulthood and this is because the lion cub experiences many challenges, including injuries, food shortage, illness, and the unfortunate case of being killed by an adult lion. If a cub is lucky enough to survive to adulthood, they will have a life expectancy of approximately 15 years (if all goes well).
How do the majority of lions in the wild die?
Approximately 60 percent of lions die of natural causes, although starvation, fights with other lions, and of course, poaching also add to the lion’s high mortality rate.
How long does it take for a lion to starve to death?
Lions can go for at least 14 days without eating (provided they were well-fed to begin with), however, after that they will begin to lose their conditioning and become weak. As a consequence, they become a target for other animals and are at further risk of death.
How long do wild lions live?
In the wild, the lion usually lives no more than 10 to 15 years because of their exposure to other lions and human poachers, and the need to find their own food and water for survival. On the other hand, in captivity, the lion may live up to and over 25 years, again, this is because they have a guaranteed food and water source and are kept from other lions and hunters.