What Do Elephants Eat?



Elephants, the largest walking mammal on land, eat a lot to sustain their massive bodies, which isn’t surprising. The long treks through native habitats require so much energy. So, what do elephants eat for their tremendous diets?

Elephants are herbivorous, so they eat a range of plant-based foods. These include tree bark, fruits, roots, leaves, and soil (for potassium and iron found in salts and minerals). They can also consume savanna grasses, flowers, stems, and local crops such as rice, bananas, and sugarcane.  

This article is a complete guide on what and how elephants eat. If you want to dive deeper into what these elephants eat daily to fill up their bellies, read till the end.  

Elephant eating

What Do Different Species of Elephants Eat?

These gentle giants graze for up to 18 hours a day. Their massive trunk and strong tusks help them eat pounds of shrubs, roots, and other plants.

Without considering what the various elephant species consume, listing what elephants feed on wouldn’t be complete. 

After all, the diets of African wild elephants inhabiting sub-Saharan Africa and Asian elephants living in lush green rainforests are significantly different.

Let’s look at the nutrition of each type of elephant separately.

Interesting fact: Elephants may have massive bellies, but their digestive systems aren’t as strong. As a result, they only digest and use about 40%-60% of whatever they eat daily.

What Do African Bush Elephants Eat?

One of the remaining two subspecies of African elephants is the African bush elephant, usually called the African savannah elephant.

Most of the 37 African nations where these elephants live are in sub-Saharan Africa. They live primarily in grasslands, woodlands, marshes, and agriculture at varying altitudes.

Many will climb mountains to get food; some have even been discovered at elevations higher than 8,000 feet.

These elephants have highly diversified foods from the vegetation they collect during their extensive daily grazing because they frequently switch between different habitats.

African bush elephants often consume the following kinds of plant material for their meals:

  • Grass from savannah
  • Tree bark
  • Leaves and stems
  • Fruits (like mangoes and figs)
  • Roots
  • Flowers
  • Soil (for minerals and salts)

With their strong trunks and large, flat teeth, these animals are ideally suited to ripping bark right off trees and pulling entire branches into their mouths.

They will also use their tusks and feet to dig into the ground to find underground water sources or near trees to pull up their roots and mineral-rich soil to munch on.

Elephant eating

What Do African Forest Elephants Eat?

The African bush elephant and the African forest elephant are remarkably similar to one another; for a long time, both were referred to as just “African elephants.”

Scientists have recently discovered, nevertheless, that there are more distinctions between the two species than they first believed.

African forest elephants, for example, differ from African bush elephants in terms of size, height, and the shapes of their tusks, skulls, and bones.

They eat a lot of different kinds of plants, branches, fruits, and tree trunks, as you might expect, which is quite similar to the diet of the African bush elephant.

They often use their teeth to retrieve roots and soil to enhance their intake of salts and other nutrients from the ground.

African forest elephants are found across most sub-Saharan Africa, in nations like Cameroon and the Republic of Congo, with more extensive tracts of wooded land.

We don’t understand much about their behavior and eating since they have yet to be researched as well as their African bush relatives, but that is steadily improving.

African forest elephants drinking water

What Do Asian Elephants Eat?

The third subspecies of elephant that is officially identified is the Asian elephant.

Although they can occasionally be found in portions of China, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam, they primarily reside in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Nepal and are spread across 13 different nations.

Asian elephants frequently ingest various plants indigenous to those regions since they often inhabit meadows and densely wooded areas throughout Asia.

In particular, Indian elephants consume the following foods in their diets: 

  • Grasses
  • Bamboo
  • Leaves
  • Tree bark
  • Stems and roots
  • Crops grown locally, including rice, bananas, and sugar cane
  • Rich minerals soil

These elephants resemble both varieties of African elephants; however, they are shorter and have weaker tusks than the latter two.

In addition, Asian elephants have a smooth texture, fuller ears, and a broader, slightly more curved lower lip, unlike African elephants.

What Are Other Unusual Things Elephants Eat?

Elephants enjoy eating watermelons, pumpkins, cacti, sausage tree fruits, and ivory palm fruits.

Those kept in captivity have access to meals that their native relatives can’t possibly fathom.

Committed keepers have fed their captive pet elephants things like rice cakes, bread, and pasta.

Is it a good idea to approach the adorable baby elephant in the zoo, attempting to stand up straight and give it a slice of your sandwich? Most likely not.

The young child may be on a tight diet, and bread is frequently offered as a reward. In addition, you must only feed zoo animals with approval.

Final Thoughts On Elephants Diet

The chubby giants that find humans “cute” are undoubtedly big on what they eat and how much they eat, but it’s reasonable given their massive sizes and energy usage. 

Their herbivorous nature restricts them from eating other things except for plants, but the zoo elephants are known to eat more than you might expect.


How Much Can an Elephant Eat In One Day?

An adult elephant needs roughly 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of food and 100 liters (26 gallons) of liquids daily. These quantities may be doubled for an elephant, both hungry and thirsty. Because of this consumption, elephants are an essential ecological element, which significantly impacts and even changes elephants’ environments.

Do Elephants Ever Eat Meat?

Elephants exclusively consume plants. They follow a rigorous vegetarian diet. Their eating plan excludes meat. Meat is consumed by carnivorous animals such as lions, tigers, cheetahs, and leopards.

What Do Savanna’s Elephants Eat?

Elephants consume weeds like Rubber Vine, Mesquite, Prickly Pear, etc., on the savanna. Additionally, they consume various tree pieces found in the Savanna region. Elephants also favor certain trees, such as bushwillow and acacia.

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