Last Reviewed and Updated on June 25, 2022
The largest land mammal also has a large appetite. You do need a lot of food to keep a body of such size moving. But what do elephants eat? What are the main foods that they will consume and how does the diet of the African elephant differ from that of an Asian elephant?
General diet of an elephant
Elephants are herbivores, which means they eat plants, fruits, and seeds. Across different species, their diet generally consists of grasses, leaves, twigs, bark, seeds, and fruits.
An adult elephant can eat well over 330 pounds / 150 kg of food in a single day! They will spend most of the day foraging for food.
Elephants play an important role in their ecosystems. By eating so much vegetation, they have an impact on the landscape and make room for new plants to grow. They also spread seeds around through their dung.
While all of the elephant species are herbivores, their diets do vary.
Also read: interesting elephant facts
What do African elephants eat?
There are two species of African elephants, the African forest elephant, and the African bush elephant.
African forest elephant
The African forest elephants forage on leaves, grasses, seeds, fruit, and tree bark.
Their diet is dominated by various fruits and so they are a crucial part of the dispersal of seeds of many tree species.
They eat dozens of different varieties of fruits including some of the fruits popular with humans. Bananas, mangoes, and citrus are often on their menu.
African bush elephant
Also called the savannah elephant, has a diet that is richer in grass, leaves, and bark than it is in fruits.
The acacia tree is one of the most recognizable (and iconic) plants when it comes to the African savannah. As the savannah is the ecosystem where you can find the African bush elephant it comes as no surprise that leaves from this tree are one of the most important food sources for this elephant species.
What do Asian elephants eat?
These elephants spend most of their time feeding on grass. They also eat tree bark, leaves, small tree stems, and roots.
If their habitat is close to cultivated crops such as sugarcane or bananas they will more than happily eat those too.
What do baby elephants eat?
Elephants are mammals, so the baby elephants will drink their mother’s milk.
Their diet is strictly milk for about 4 months and it is after that they also start eating plants. They will continue to drink milk for about 2 years, while also eating vegetation.