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As the biggest land animals, you would expect elephants to eat quite a lot of food, and they do. Their big size makes many people wonder what elephants eat to grow into such imposing sizes.

In this article, we'll look at what elephants eat, and drink as well as how much they need to survive. 

Amboseli np elephants and kilimanjaro

What Do Elephants Eat?

Elephants are herbivores that feed on naturally growing plants and shrubs in their habitat. African elephants eat grasses, small plants, bushes, fruits, twigs, tree bark, flowers, and roots.

Using their tusks, Elephants also dig up the ground to obtain the minerals and salts in the soil.

Trees like Acacia and Bushwillow are often eaten by elephants in the savannah and semidesert environments. 

In areas where food is scarce, elephants have been recorded to walk distances of more than 150 kilometres in a single day, in search of food.

elephants drinking in selous gr

Related article: Heaviest African animals in the wild

What Do Elephants Eat In The Zoo?

At the zoo, elephants are fed according to their needs. They are mostly fed on fruits, hay, pellets, and vegetables.

Given that the zoo is a slightly more controlled environment, the diet of elephants changes depending on what is easily available and the nutritional needs of the elephant.

Do Elephants Eat Meat/Fish?

Elephants are herbivores and therefore do not eat meat or fish. Meat-eating wild animals are often carnivores like lions and leopards or herbivores like chimps and monkeys.

While an elephant needs a lot of nutrients to survive, all the nutrients come directly from the vegetation it eats. The digestive system of elephants is not built to digest meat or fish.

Considering the conditions in the wilderness where elephants live, elephants don't have any of the advantages of other carnivores such as speed and stealth. 

How Much Do Elephants Eat?

Elephants eat around 150 kilograms of food every day. Within 2 days an elephant can eat as much food as an adult human would need for about 1 year.

About 80% of the elephant's day is spent feeding and looking for food.

How Much Water Do Elephants Drink?

lower zambezi np elephnat drinking

Elephants drink about 70 to 100 litres of water every day. They can consume up to 150 litres on a very hot day. An elephant can use its trunk to drink about 50 litres of water in less than 3 minutes.

In hotter desert areas, elephants drink more water than their cousins living in greener savannahs.

Why Do Elephants Eat A Lot?

Elephants are the biggest land animals, and in one day, they can eat enough food to feed a human adult for several months. Here is why the elephants need lots of food.

  • They need a lot of energy to sustain themselves
  • They move a lot in search of food. moving around 15km per day.
  • They have a poor digestive system and about 50% of their food is passed undigested.

Final Thoughts

Elephants are exciting animals to see, whether you find them drinking water, eating lush grass, or breaking tree branches.

The biggest risk factor for elephants is related to their food. As their habitat shrinks, elephants find it hard to get enough water and food in the wild. This is why most elephants are found in protected areas such as national parks and game reserves.

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