Beluga Whale

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Male beluga whales live longer than females at about 40 years compared to 32 years and belugas in captivity live longer than those in the wild.

The reported life expectancies of wild beluga whales vary widely based on the study location and methodology used.

The age of the oldest documented beluga whale in the wild was estimated to be 38 years old. Published estimates of adult annual survival rates range from 83% to 97%. When applied to animals that have survived one full year, these annual survival rates can be converted into median life expectancies ranging from 3.49 years to 22.76 years, and average life expectancies ranging from 5.4 years to 32.8 years, respectively. The majority of reported values of life expectancy of wild belugas from one year of age range between 10 and 15 years.

The lifespan for female beluga whales is thought to be about 32 years and that for males about 40 years.

As of January 2013, the oldest beluga whales in zoological parks and aquariums were over 40 years old. Based on previously published data on wild belugas, it would be quite rare, though not impossible, for an animal in the wild to reach 40 years of age. Based on an analysis of data, the annual survival rate of beluga whales in human care has been calculated as 97%. This is the same as the highest reported value for a wild population. The number can be interpreted as meaning that a one-year-old beluga in human care would have a median life expectancy of 22.76 years, and an average life expectancy of 32.8 years. Thus, it is clear that from one year of age, the adult life expectancy of beluga whales in human care is at least equal to, if not greater than, beluga whales from one year of age in the wild.

Sources: (AMMPA, 2014, 2017; Beland, et al., 1993; Burns & Seaman, 1986; Doidge, 1990; Lentfer, 1988; Williams, 2002)
Image: Jan Zeschky

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