The age of the oldest lion in the world

Lions may be the kings of the jungle, but their life in the wild is often a struggle. From the moment they’re born they’re faced with challenges, from finding food to avoiding danger - both from other prides and from humans. So how long do they usually live and what age did some of the oldest lions reach? Let’s find out.


How long do lions live?

In the wild, lions typically live to between 10 and 14 years old. Females usually live longer than males and that’s in part because, at the age of two or three years, male lions leave the pride where they were born and go out to create their own. This often means they have to fight other males, which can prove deadly.

Lions in captivity tend to live much longer. They’re in a controlled environment with access to regular food and water, and have no need to establish a pride. Crucially, they are not exposed to conflict with humans, which is a key reason why many lions die earlier in the wild. In captivity, lions can live to 20 years old or more.


The oldest male lions in the world

The oldest known wild male lion was named Loonkito, and lived in Kenya. He was monitored by the Lion Guardians conservation group and lived until the age of 19 - much longer than average. He is thought to have been the oldest male lion in Africa at the time of his death in 2023.

The oldest male lion in captivity was named Arjun. Born in captivity, he was originally part of a circus before being moved to the Indian Animal Rescue Centre. He lived there until he was between 26 and 29 years old (his exact age was unknown) and passed away from natural causes in 2018.


The oldest lionesses in the world

The oldest living female lion in the wild is believed to be 19 years old. Named Mathata, she belongs to the Kwena pride, which lives in the north of South Africa, close to the border with Botswana.

Among the oldest known captive lionesses was Salteña. Initially part of a travelling circus, she was rescued by a zoo in Argentina before being transported to The Wild Cat Sanctuary in Minnesota, USA. She was thought to be 26 at the time of her relocation in 2018, and passed away in 2020 at the grand old age of 27.


Discover your inner lion

If you love big cats, be sure to catch The Lion Inside at a theatre near you. This production is touring the UK from 14 March to 29 August, and is a great family activity. Telling the story of a mouse who wants to learn to roar like his lion neighbour, it explores the themes of confidence and friendship. It’s sure to be one of the best family days out this season, and is specially tailored to children, being just 55 minutes long with no interval. Book your tickets now and enjoy a day of family fun!