What Do Thai Elephants Eat?
You might have noticed that elephants are the largest land animals in the world. These big beauties are up to 2.75 m tall and they can weigh more than 5,000 kg! Elephants enjoy so many advantages because of their great size. They are easily one of the strongest animals around as they can lift heavy weights or move large obstacles such as fallen trees and boulders aside with ease. Being a big powerful animal also means you have few enemies in nature and most of the time, elephants don’t get attacked let alone fight other animals and predators. However, since elephants are huge, they require more nutrition and food than almost anything else on land. So how much food does an elephant eat in a day? What kind of food do elephants like? What do elephants eat in Thailand? Here are some answers to those questions.
We are all creatures of habit to some extent. For many people, three meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) are what get them through the day. Elephants do not see eating the same way, in fact, they have a totally different approach to eating: meal time is all the time. Elephants spend between 11-16 hours a day just eating! As soon as an elephant wakes up, they begin eating and, in most cases, when they aren’t eating, they are sleeping.
Getting the Food Together
As you can imagine, since the elephant spends most of its time eating, they must also always search for food. Elephants are herbivores but unlike most herbivores, elephants both graze (eat grass from the ground) and browse (pick plants apart for food). Spending time in the jungle, an elephant tends to work through every plant and patch of grass it encounters, stripping the jungle of this vegetation. This is also why elephants like to roam so much as they eat through vast amounts of jungle! After coming in contact with human civilization and farms especially, elephants have another source of food that they like to search for. Wild elephants are known to wander onto human farms and they either eat all the crops or trample over them. For centuries, farmers have found new and creative ways to ward elephants off from their farms!
The Main Course
Now that we’ve covered how much elephants eat and how often they eat, let’s talk about some of their favourite foods! Asian elephants need to eat around 10% of their body weight every day. They like to eat all kinds of grass, fruits, vegetables, leaves and even some kinds of tree bark. Thai elephants especially love watermelons, banana (fruit, trees, leaves), papaya, sweet potato, bamboo and even pineapple. They grab bits of food from plants and the soil using their trunks. At the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, you will see our elephants eat all of these lovely treats and more, you’ll even have the opportunity to feed them with your own hands!
An Expensive Diet
The elephants eat so much food that our mahouts and trainers spend a lot of time just gathering food for them. In the past, when elephants were used more as draught animals or entertainers, mahouts would let their elephants out for much of the evening and late night so that they could graze and browse for food and go find them in the morning. Unfortunately, Thailand has lost much of its jungle and forest area, which is why the elephant population has declined so badly. Mahouts can no longer let their elephants go foraging and they must spend a lot of money buying them food every day. This occurred very often in Thailand at one point with mahouts abandoning so many elephants because they did not have the means to take care of them.
The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary cares for the elephants and their nutrition from donations by the public and through our tours. When you come to visit our elephants, you are doing your small bit to help them eat all the food they need for the day. Come feed the elephants at any of the Elephant Jungle Sanctuaries soon!