What is the oldest living tiger in captivity (2023)?
I dived into this topic with gusto thinking I could find a quick, one line answer to the question. Silly me. I have dated the question for the obvious reason, I guess, that the longest-lived tiger in captivity will change as the years rumble on. And as at 2023, Guinness World Records do not have a listing for the longest-lived tiger in captivity. Yes, none is listed which is a bit surprising because there is a tiger in captivity somewhere who is the oldest living tiger at the moment. We just don’t know who or where they are.
Therefore, formally, there is no current (2023) record holder. I expect this to change in the not-too-distant future unless Guinness World Records decide to remove this record from their database. Sometimes they do that such as for the fattest domestic cat because it encourages malpractice. It is plausible to argue that some private zoos or sanctuaries might keep a tiger alive in an inhumane way to be awarded the record.
Guinness do state some obvious criteria for this record: any subspecies of tiger can qualify and the record is measured in years and days! Not very enlightening.
We have to look to the recent past to find the longest lives tigers in captivity. There were two.
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Bengali lived at Tiger Creek Animal Sanctuary in Tyler, Texas. A ‘sanctuary’ where alleged animal abuse took place. Bengali was almost 27 years old at the time he was euthanized on the advice of a veterinarian. Bengali was born during August 1995. He joined the ‘sanctuary’ in November 2000.
We are told that he was well cared for and in July 2021 was recorded by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest living tiger in captivity. An autopsy was not performed on Bengali. He probably died of old age. Guinness have not recorded Bengali’s existence on their website. They could have done that for the record.
At 27-years-of-age, his life was about twice as long as that of wild tigers. For obvious reasons captive tigers normally live longer than wild tigers.
The sanctuary was sued by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) for their alleged inhumane treatment of animals. There were accusations that nine lions and tigers died because of neglect.
We can see the court documents which reveal the level of neglect and maltreatment such as:
“Among these deaths are a tiger who laid dying for days in his own waste without any veterinary intervention, a lion with gaping wounds who was forced to endure extensive and painful medical treatment until his death, and immobile, dying cats stabbed repeatedly in their chest in a brutal form of euthanasia.”
Raj in India
A Twitter tweet of July 11, 2022 by the West Bengal Forest Department declared that a Bengal tiger named Raj joined the Khayerbari Rescue Centre in 2008. He was aged 11 at the time and had been badly injured in a fight with a crocodile. He had been rescued and treated by their veterinarians. He died at the age of 26 and at the time was India’s oldest living tiger.
My reference book: Wild Cats of the World by the Sunquists states that, “Captive tigers have lived for as long as twenty-six years, and twenty years is not uncommon”. So Bengali and Raja were not remarkably exceptional. It is conceivable that there are some captive tigers in private zoos in the USA today who are as old. Private zoos are being phased out in the US under the Big Cat Public Safety Act. There will be less opportunities for the oldest tiger thankfully as America’s private zoos are not something to be proud of.
Below are some more Bengal tiger articles on this site. There are many more. Please use custom search to find them.