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Age-Related Changes in Elephants

Rana and Mara

The average lifespan of captive Asian elephants is 48 years (per Wikipedia).

  • Maia, our youngest elephant, is 47. Our other residents are all older –
  • Rana is 62,
  • Lady is 49,
  • Mara is 55, and
  • Bambi is 58.

With elephants, like all other animals, everyone ages a little differently and at their own rate. However, there are still some overarching patterns to aging.

Once elephants turn 50, they begin to lose muscle mass in a few locations. The most prominent areas are along their spines and their heads. Age is why so many of our elephants have such pronounced facial structure and backbones. Gravity also has an impact – Ramba (who was 65 when she passed away) had very baggy skin around her ankles. Captive elephants who don’t have much space lose more muscle mass in additional areas. Our elephants are decently fit from their large habitat and daily wanderings, which maintains muscle mass in their legs. Lady nor Maia have pronounced loss of muscle mass at this time, but those changes are just around the corner.

The loss of muscle mass isn’t specific to elephants. Many species – including humans – experience the same things. Like with elephants, we lose muscle mass on our heads as well when we age, making them more triangular in shape. Thankfully, it’s less pronounced in humans than in elephants.

There are other age-related changes in elephants as well, like Rana getting delightfully fuzzy. Muscle mass loss along the spine is one of the more apparent changes. Just remember, aging is a natural process of life. As the Irish proverb goes, “Do not regret growing old; it is a privilege denied to many.” While our elephants are older, they are still full of joy, happiness, and celebrate everyday moments with trumpets and rumbles.

Photo of Rana (left) and Mara (right) in a mud hole. This photo is a few weeks old and was taken before the rainy season began. We chose it because it clearly shows Rana’s pronounced spine and face shape from aging. Please know it is still raining here daily and our grass is currently lush. ❤️

November 6, 2020

Comments(20)

  1. REPLY
    Sunny says

    ‘Delightfully fuzzy’ XD She’s the sweetest thing 🙂

  2. REPLY
    Tammy says

    Really enjoyed the update I learned alot of new things that I always enjoy passing on to others. Everyone loves the photos and yes these girls are flourishing at the sanctuary all because of you guys, great job you must be so proud of all your incredible accomplishments in such a short amount of time its truly amazing. Thank you for all your hard work the girls just glow with happiness! much love and big hugs from Minnesota 🐘💕🐘💕🐘💕🐘💕🐘💕

  3. REPLY
    Wim says

    First things first a lovely picture. Well all mammals are alike when you’re allowed the time to grow pleasantly old. All Elephants are equal but some Elephants are more equal than others. BTW love your stories. 🙏🐘🙏

  4. REPLY
    JoAnn Merriman Eaton says

    Even though age is showing on our girls, they still have the expression of happiness and well being.I have noticed like humans, elles show stress and unhappiness in their eyes and face. Bambi’s face has just transformed. So appreciate the knowledge you share.

  5. REPLY
    Barb says

    It is especially wonderful that these lovely girls can spend twilight years in a safe, gorgeous environment. Wonderful care, wonderful food, respect, and above all love for these beauties! Thank you!

  6. REPLY
    Sherry says

    Yes, beautiful lush green grass for the elephants and for the beauty of the earth.🍁🐘🌳🐿🌻🌈🍎

  7. REPLY
    Elaine Decker says

    We have something in common. I have saggy, baggy ankles too (age 72). Oh well, better than the alternative….;)

  8. REPLY
    Alana says

    Rana is just stunning! Love her to the moon & back.

  9. REPLY
    Kelejan says

    Taking the average lifespans of animals includes many that die younger or die in accidents or due to ill health. All that brings the average age down to 48. So I think it means that these girls are the ones that will live and with all the care they get now, I am sure they will have many happy years between them, for each of these girls. I am so happy that they have found GES in time and with the wonderful care they are getting, so will years above the average.

  10. REPLY
    Carey says

    So our eles have defied the odds already, they are survivors mentally speaking, in whatever ways they have individually “survived” their horrific ordeals. I’m always struck by their acceptance, so quickly to this new environment, each other and their humans, it humbles me ! The willingness to grab it and believe it and be so transformed! But get what you are saying about ageing , I didn’t realise that brain muscle loss is responsible for their more visible head and temple area bone structure, But I remember thinking that Guida was younger than Maia but looked much older, I believe you believed it was because her mental torment had aged her prematurely. Pls forgive my over long comment ! Thank you, Obrigado to you passing on your expertise to us. I for one am getting to discover more and more which I love ❤️ .
    This is all very therapeutic during second national lockdown across the UK, the second wave is feared as poss worse than first outbreak. First gd news today that Liverpool who went into lockdown 2 was ago, today’s mortality has stopped increasing, stabilised + in addition city wide testing to all who want it. We can only hope they test and specifically “trace” with much better capacity, management and systems that don’t so spectacularly lose 16,000 people’s results Your posts are like balm to the soul and brain (reduced size though it is 🤯!) Thank you and Obrigado to ALL for your skill and ❤️

  11. REPLY
    Carey says

    PS could have sworn it was Maia on left and Rana on the right 🤭

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      That’s looking at the photo. If it’s their right and left, it’s backward from what we wrote. 😉

  12. REPLY
    SHEILA says

    YES, GREAT INFO👍 YES DEAREST 🐘RANA IS AGING! BUT IF GOD IS GRACIOUS HE WILL KEEP HER WITH YOUS UNTIL 75🐘🙏❤️ LIL LADY 🐘 AND 🐘MAIA R VERY CLOSE IN AGE AND I WOULD SAY MAIA IS THE MOST HEALTHY GAL AT SANCTUARY‼️ SHE IS THE YOUNGEST AND CAN MOVE VERY WELL! SHE SWIMS! EATS WELL! RESTS WELL! DEAR LADY HAS SUCH BAD FEET SADLY IM SURE THIS AFFECTS HER DESIRE TO COMMUNICATE WITH OTHERS‼️ GUESS AGING IS IMMINENT EVEN FOR US HUMANS! I STRUGGLE WITH THE IDEA OF ANY OF THESE LADIES AGING TOO FAST AS THEY JUST RECOVERED THEIR LIVES‼️ ILL NEVER FORGET😇 RAMBA🐘 AND 🐘GUIDA😇 I PRAY🙏SOON MAISON AND THE OTHER GALS WILL ARIVE TO RECLAIM THEIR TRUE LIVES AT BRAZIL SANCTUARY🙏
    WONDERFUL NEWS ITS 🌧💦 RAINING👍WONDERFUL LUSH. REFRESHING FOLAGE! STREAMS AND PONDS FOR A THE LADIES👍🙏❗️

  13. REPLY
    Rosie P says

    In the autumn and winter of their lives it is gratifying to know that these 5 girls, at least, will have known freedom of choice, compassion, empathy and love after a lifetime of abuse. To see them enjoy life, maybe for the first time in their long lives, makes all the hard work of getting them to sanctuary so worth it. If it meant that an ellie lived just long enough to experience only one day of sanctuary, it would be worth it. Life is precious, may all our girls and those yet to come, find many years of peace and hope and human kindness at ESB.

  14. REPLY
    Kelejan says

    Cary, my feelings echo yours.

  15. REPLY
    Kelejan says

    Rosie P, it remind me of the first elephant that I supported, Tina from the Vancouver Zoo who had one year in Sanctuary before she died. I still remember that ache I had in my heart that lasted too long.
    RIP Tina.

  16. REPLY
    Beji says

    These are beautiful and majestic ladies. Their dignity is a timely reminder to all of us in this time of crisis. The unimaginable treatment they endured and have now risen above is inspiring. I only hope I can learn from them as I age. Also, I have alot more sags than just my ankles!

  17. REPLY
    Sallie says

    We are in so many ways as humans, equal to the age processing of elephants. From all of the info and conversations, I can see and feel the similarities and the differences. Elephants are definitely an incentive to shake it off and improve one’s mental & physical health during the highs and lows. I appreciate so much what Bejin had to say. Thank you.

  18. REPLY
    Rosie P says

    Yes, Kelejan, I remember Tina, too. A beautiful soul, and my heart breaks thinking of all those who have passed away. I shall not forget any of them.

  19. REPLY
    Teresa smith says

    Bambi and i are the same age!! I followed her story fro zoo to Sanctuary and am so pleaed she has found her happy place. I love learning about the elephants hope evrything is on the mend from the fire. Peace Love and Good Health to you all.

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