Diet & Feeding
Food Items and Feeding Strategies
- They are both browsers (feeding on shrubs and trees) and grazers (feeding on grass)
- Can consume many species of plants, as well as twigs and bark but usually only a few plant taxa
- 112 species of plants in a study in southern India, 400 species recorded in Malaysia
- Choice of plants varies with seasons
- Feed on mostly plants during dry season
- Shift to grass in first part of wet season;
- Return to browse feeding after heavy rains (when grass less nutritious).
- Strategies for obtaining grass include:
- Dislodge clumps with feet, gather a pile of grass, grab with trunk, smack against leg to knock off dirt, put in mouth when dirt-free
- Wash clumps by moving back and forth with trunk in water
- Usually do not feed for more than a few days in one place
- Drink every day when available; stay close to a source of fresh water
- Can ingest over 100 liters (26 gallons) at one time
- Drink up to 225 liters (59 gallons) per day
- If no water available, dig with forefeet and trunks for subsoil water; wallows created in this manner.
- Anecdotal evidence reports elephants fond of alcohol; reports of raiding illicit liquor stores in the forest.
- Adults eat approx. 150kg (330 lbs) daily; approximately 1.5 – 2% (dry weight) of body weight
- Salt needed in diet; migrate to deposits regularly and excavate with tusks if necessary.