Lions are the apex predators sitting at the top of the food chain. But even apex predators can’t live forever. So, how long do lions live?
The average lifespan of a male lion is 8 to 12 years, while a female lion can live for 10 to 15 years. Lifespan depends dramatically upon whether it’s in the wild or captivity. Captive lions live longer than wild lions, mainly because they are taken care of, while the wild ones often fall victim to multiple threats on the savannah.
This article will discuss how long lions live in the wild and captivity, the main factors affecting their life expectancy, the average lifespan of male and female lions, and much more.
Let’s get started.
Factors Affecting the Life Expectancy of Lions
There are two main factors affecting the life expectancy of Lions: the gender of a lion and whether it’s in the wild or captivity.
These two factors also further affect food quality and whether they’re in danger of natural threats and prone to harmful diseases.
1. Life Expectancy of Male and Female Lions
Generally, a female lion lives longer than its male counterpart. The average lifespan of a female lion is 10 to 15 years, while a male lion mostly lives for 8 to 12 years.
Lionesses live together in a pride (a group of lions living together) and look after each other while hunting.
On the other hand, male lions do not have a support system and are generally more solitary unless they are the head of the pride.
Living alone increases threats to the male lion. While the female lion usually hunts in a group which guarantees more safety.
Even the male head of the pride is under more threat than the female pride members, as his job is to protect the pride from threats, and he also has to fight off younger males that try to overthrow him.
2. Life Expectancy of Lions in Captivity
Lions live longer in captivity than in the wild. Living in a controlled environment or a zoo removes many threats they would face on the open plains they call home.
Their keepers provide them with high-quality food, healthcare, and other necessities.
On average, a lion can live for about 20 years in captivity.
The lions in captivity don’t face challenges, such as male lions fighting for pride and female lions hunting for food. The most common cause of death in captive lions is their old age.
3. Life Expectancy of Lions in Wild
Wild Lions face a multitude of problems from the moment they are born.
Wild lions risk losing their lives from disease, starvation, and infanticide from other lions while the lionesses are out hunting.
However, the greatest threat to them is still humans, not just because of poaching and hunting, but because humans actively contribute to destroying the habitats of wild lions, creating more natural difficulties for them.
In the wild, female lions have an average lifespan of 10 to 15 years, while male lions live for 8 to 10 years, depending on their natural habitat and access to nutrition. However, once male lions reach the age of 10, they become weak and are unable to provide for themselves.
Lionesses have more longevity as they’re a part of a pride that hunts together.
You know what they say about strength and safety in numbers.
How Do Prides Influence the Life Expectancy of Wild Lions?
Mostly, male lions fight among their pride for power and authority. They use their physical fitness to dominate over their competitors; losers often pay with their lives.
- Typically, older lions try to fight off younger ones, who are comparatively stronger. As a result, the older lions are cast out from the pride and then struggle alone, without any support.
- Some male lions also leave their birth pride to make a new one. When they aren’t successful in doing so, it leads them to an early death.
- Male lions also fight with lions from other prides to expand their territory, which often proves fatal for the loser.
On the other hand, Female lions hunt within their pride and know how to feed themselves. They can live within their birth pride in old age and don’t fight for power.
How Long Can Lions Survive?
There are a few examples worldwide where lions have lived significantly longer than their expected lifespan.
To date, the oldest known lion is Arjun, who stayed at the Indian Animal Rescue Center. On May 17th, 2018, Arjun passed away at 29 because of old age and numerous organ failures.
Arjun was born in captivity and never spent a day in the wild. His case also further proves how controlled environments can elongate the lifespan of lions.
The longest-living lion is Loonkito, residing in Africa at the ripe age of 19. Loonkito is also one of the oldest African wild lions in Amboseli National Park.
He still rules over a pride of cubs and females but has been living alone since 2017, when his brother and colleagues died in a territorial battle.
Previously lions could be healthier and live longer in the wild because the conditions were ideal. Nowadays, the average lifespan of lions in the wild also greatly depends upon humans.
The increasing human population and the resulting growth of settlements, agriculture, and roads isolate the lions, destroying their habitats.
When prey within a lion’s territory becomes scarce, they invade other prides’ territory to feed, naturally increasing conflict. As humans expand, they push both lions and their prey items out of their natural habitats, and lions and other wildlife have to suffer the consequences.
Final Thoughts On The Lifespan Of Lions
Lions are one of the strongest animals on the planet. While they may sit at the top of the food chain, the average life expectancy of male lions is only 8 to 12 years, but female lions can live for an average of 10 to 15 years.
The life expectancy of lions depends on their food quality, genetics, habitat condition, and whether they live in the wild or a controlled environment.
What Diseases Decrease the Life Expectancy Of a Lion?
Lions are susceptible to Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), a virus similar to HIV in humans, that actively decreases their life expectancy.
What Percentage Of Lions Make It To Adulthood?
Due to illness, infanticide, injuries, and starvation, only 1 in 8 cubs (baby lions) make it to adulthood.
How Long Can Lions Live Without a Proper Meal?
Without proper food consumption, lions can live for two weeks. However, well-protected and healthy lions can survive for even longer.