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What Do Elephants Eat?

Elephants probably don’t need any introduction.  Being the largest land animals, they are quite infamous.  There are three main species of elephant:  The African bush elephant, the African forest elephant, and the Asian elephant.

These beautiful mammals can live to become up to 70 years old and can become up to 11ft tall with a body mass of up to 7.6 tons.  As you can imagine, elephants require quite a lot of food and water to stay nourished and healthy.

What Do Elephants Eat?

Elephants are omnivores and will consume strictly plant materials.  These huge mammals will spend 16 – 18 hours of a day or 80% of their day grazing and feeding.  This stern feeding schedule is essential since they need to consume enough food on a daily basis to maintain high energy levels.

Here is a quick look at the main foods that elephants mostly enjoy eating;

Water

Elephants can go without water for long periods of time.  This sturdiness allows them to survive drought seasons.  But they do require lots of water every day to stay healthy. 

An elephant consumes about 68.4 – 98.8 liters of water daily.  An adult male can drink up to 212 liters of water in less than five minutes if they are quite thirsty.  

Elephants also love to swim or take muddy baths.  Rolling in mud helps protect their skin from insects and other types of infestations. 

Grasses

Grasses are one of the main food supplies for elephants.  They will consume a great variety of grass types such as buffelgrass, pangolagrass, kleingrass, weeping lovegrass, napiergrass and much more.  They will consume the grass leaves, branches and also roots of these plants.  

In captivity, elephants are also willing to consume hay or straw and branches but in these conditions, they will require additional nourishment.

Small plants and bushes

These huge animals also enjoy eating a variety of small plant types and they are especially fond of consuming bushes.  They will carefully select tasty leaves with their long trunks but in drought seasons, elephants are not at all shy about consuming the branches of bushes.

Roots

Elephants will dig out tree roots using their long tusks.  Tree roots are a valuable source of nutrition and these roots often contain lots of moisture which helps elephants stay hydrated in times of distress. 

They will consume just about any non-poisonous tree or bush root they can find.

Tree twigs and barks

These huge animals have teeth that are strong enough to chew through twigs.  They also enjoy tearing out strips of bark.  Tree bark is one of their favorite food sources because it contains lots of calcium and roughage which helps them digest foods better.  

Fruits and vegetables

In zoos and animal parks, elephants are supplemented with lots of fruits to help keep them healthy. 

They are quite fond of bananas and apples and will also consume other fruits like melons, pineapples, pears, and others.

Elephants are also fed on lots of vegetable types such as carrots, celery, parsley, lettuce, cabbage, kale, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and beets.  

Diet Variations

Elephants can eat almost any type of food found on the savannah.  This versatile diet is exactly what enables them to survive in harsh conditions.  They can show many diet variations in severe conditions.

One of the most renowned diet variations of elephants is their fondness of marula fruits.  When marulas are left in the sun long enough, they will become fermented and elephants can become intoxicated when they consume too many of these fruits.  

Do elephants eat peanuts?

One of the most common misconceptions of elephants is that they love to eat peanuts.  In truth, elephants are not very likely to find peanuts in their natural environment.  Yes, they can consume these foods but the likelihood of them finding peanuts is scarce.  This myth began when elephants became an attraction in circuses and zoos.  

How to Feed Elephants

When food lacks in the wild, elephants need to be fed.  Animals kept in enclosures are also fed healthy meals every day.  Elephants are not fussy eaters and they are happy to consume any foods that are put out to them in their enclosures or around feeding grounds.  

Tame or domesticated elephants are quite happy to receive food offerings directly from human hands. 

In the wild, feeders do however need to be quite wary of these mammals.  They are huge and protective males can be quite aggressive.   In the wild, elephant feeds are usually put out on feeding grounds. 

When elephants grow accustomed to these feeding schedules they are quite unlikely to show aggression towards feeders.

How Much Do Elephants Eat?

These 7-ton mammals can have quite a healthy appetite.  An adult African elephant can consume 100 – 270kg of feed every day.  It is essential to include tree bark in elephant feeds as bark assists in digestion.  Without bark, elephants won’t be able to process foods adequately.  

Baby elephants or elephant calves will only feed off their mothers for the first few months. 

They can drink up to 3 gallons of milk a day.  At four months of age, they will begin to consume plants in addition to their milk. 

Elephant calves can stay close to their mothers for many years and many do continue to drink milk for up to ten years.

What Do Baby Elephants eat?

Baby elephants are called calves.  For the first four months after birth, calves only drink milk from their mothers.  At four months, calves will begin to taste and sample vegetation like grass and leaves. 

From 6 – 8 months, calves begin to learn to use their trunks to consume foods and to drink water.  By the time an elephant calve is a year old, they are quite good at using their trunks and they are able to consume many food types including leaves, grass, fruits, veggies and thin branches.

Baby elephants will continue drinking from their mothers long after they learned to consume food. 

They will continue to drink milk for up to 10 years.  

Orphaned elephants can be quite expensive to raise.  Keepers need to stay close to calves for up to 24 hours a day to keep them from feeling lonely and stressed.  Co-sleeping with orphans is mostly necessary to prevent them from feeling emotional. 

They are fed bottles of milk every three hours and they are fed on specialist’s milk formulas.  They also rely on lots of special care, playtime, and toys to ensure their happiness or their growth and appetite can begin to decline.

What Do Wild Elephants Eat?

In the wild, elephants can only consume what is available to them in their natural habitat.  They do prefer certain foods like grass, flowers, wild fruits, tree leaves, tree bark, bamboo and more but in harsh conditions, elephants will consume just about anything that grows on the savannah. 

This can include any type of plant and they are happy to consume whole plants including leaves, fruits, seeds, twigs, bark, and roots.

Do Elephants Eat Any Meat?

Elephants do not consume any type of meat.  They do not have the constitution to process fatty and meaty tissues.  85% of the foods they consume come out undigested.  Their long trunks and the position of their mouths also make it hard for them to chew and consume meats of any kind.

Elephants will, however, kill other animals and humans when they feel threatened.  They are quite territorial and can feel quite deeply. 

When they feel distressed or anger they can go on a rampage and kill other animals and humans.  

What Food Do African Elephants Eat?

African elephants will consume the same basic foods as Asian elephants with acceptance to bamboo since this plant source isn’t very common in Africa.  They can consume any type of plant that grows in the savannah and will eat leaves, grass, twigs, tree bark and tree roots.  They also enjoy munching on natural fruits like figs, marulas and more. 

How Much Does An Elephant Eat A Day?

An average adult elephant will consume quite a lot of food every day.  They require 100 – 250kg of feed daily.  They also need 68.4 – 98.8 liters of water daily but can consume up to 212 liters of water in fifteen minutes.

Elephants are however quite tough.  In severe conditions, they can continue on without food or water for many days on end. 

In this time, they will live off fat reserves.  

Do Elephants Eat Berries?

Elephants are quite fond of sweet fruits.  They are also happy to consume just about any berry they can find in the wild.  Their trunks are perfectly capable of plucking those tiny berries one by one but in most cases, elephants are much more likely to grab and munch an entire bush instead of focusing on individual berry picking.

Elephants are marvelous creatures but they are also endangered.  They need a lot of food and water to stay nourished which can make them very expensive to keep. 

These animals are also hunted for their ivory.  It is crucial to give the few elephants we have left the needed love and care and to offer them the right foods so they can stay healthy and full of life.