Zoo elephants live much shorter lives than their wild counterparts, according to a study based on some 4,500 elephants in European zoos and wildlife refuges. Infant mortality runs higher in captives, too—especially among Asian pachyderms, which suggests that something during gestation or early infancy raises the risk for the zoo-born. The data, however, may not reflect the latest zoo practices, which are more animal-friendly.

Median life span in years:

                       In zoos        In the wild

African elephants    16.9        56

Asian elephants      18.9        41.7

 

Percent of infants born in first-time pregnancies that do not survive their first year

                       In zoos        In the wild

African elephants    25.9        18.7

Asian elephants      58.3        17.4

SOURCE: Science, December 12, 2008