Believed to be the largest living terrestrial mammals, the Elephants are majestic creatures. Most of us know that elephants are herbivores, but the term “herbivore” itself encompasses a large and varied diet. Therefore, not many of us know what exact plants, leaves, fruits, or vegetables are healthy for or liked by these magnificent mammals. What about peanuts?
Do elephants eat peanuts? The myth of elephants being peanut-loving creatures has been around for as long as any of us can remember. However, contrary to it, elephants are not very fond of peanuts, neither are these nuts good for them from a health’s perspective. The ideal diet of elephants should be high in fiber and low in protein, while the nutritional composition of peanuts is quite the opposite. In fact, the shells of peanuts are much healthier for them than the peanuts themselves.
You might be wondering how something like peanuts can affect the health of elephants negatively. After all, all our lives we have seen elephants being fed peanuts in the zoos and circuses. Some of us might have fed them peanuts ourselves at some point. In this article, we are going to tell you everything you need to know about feeding peanuts to elephants.
Do elephants like eating peanuts?
When we feed peanuts to elephants, they hardly refuse. But does it mean that they like eating peanuts? Not really.
Peanuts are not a part of the elephant’s natural diet in the wild. Even the captive elephants are not fed peanuts on a regular basis. If given a choice, they’d prefer the leaves or the bark of the Baobab tree over peanuts any day. So, no, elephants do not like eating peanuts.
Are peanuts healthy for elephants?
In the previous section, we have established that elephants are not keen on eating peanuts. However, if they being fed peanuts, they might not reject them. This gives way to our next question: are peanuts healthy for elephants?
In order to find that out, let’s take a look at the nutritional chart of peanuts:
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||0.640 mg|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||0.135 mg|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||12.066 mg|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)||1.767 mg|
|Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)||0.348 mg|
|Vitamin B9 (Folates)||240 mcg|
|Vitamin E||8.33 mg|
|Total fat||49.24 g|
|Dietary fibers||8.5 g|
Serving size: 100 grams
It would suffice to say peanuts are not without nutritional benefits. However, how many of these nutrients add to the health of elephants? Although we don’t have an in-depth knowledge of an elephant’s nutritional needs, we will tell you all we know.
Health Benefits of Peanuts for elephants
Vitamins: Most herbivorous animals are known to synthesize vitamin B series inside their body. The same is true for elephants as well. However, for other vitamins, they depend on their diet. Peanuts are rich in Vitamin E, which has antioxidant properties essential for maintaining their optimal health.
Minerals: Minerals are an important part of an elephant’s diet. A deficiency of minerals in their diet can lead to a number of health issues, such as poor reproduction as well as lactation, zinc abnormality, anemia, listlessness and emaciation, poor appetite, irregular pulse, and pale mucus membrane.
Calcium, in particular, plays a vital role in the proper and healthy growth of their tusks. All elephants require a minimum of 6-9 grams of calcium every day. Peanuts are rich in calcium, as well as other minerals like magnesium, manganese, zinc, potassium, phosphorous, selenium, iron, and copper.
Risks Involved in Feeding Peanuts to Elephants
In order to lead a healthy life, elephants need a diet that has high fibers and relatively low protein. Peanuts, on the other hand, have a reverse ratio of these nutrients.
Therefore, despite all the vitamins and minerals peanuts could add to enhance an elephant’s health, you still shouldn’t make them a regular in their diet.
Is it safe for baby elephants to eat peanuts?
While it is true that peanuts are not toxic to elephants, they are not really healthy either. Since it is suggested not to feed too many to the adult elephants, their younger ones should eat even smaller amounts of it. If possible, you should try to avoid feeding them peanuts at all. Instead, feeding them healthy fruits and vegetables to make their diet richer.
Can elephants eat peanut shells?
Yes, elephants can eat peanut shells. In fact, it is also safe to assume that peanut shells are in many ways healthier than peanuts themselves for the elephants. Peanut shells are made of cellulose, and while human stomachs are not designed to digest cellulose, the elephant’s stomach is designed for this task alone.
Being herbivores, most of their diet is made of cellulose that they can easily break down and digest. Moreover, 60% of peanut shells are purely fibers, which are quite healthy for your large mammal friends.
The next time you’re in a zoo with a bag of peanuts, eat the nuts yourself and save the shells for elephants.
The myth about elephants eating peanuts
The myth about elephants eating peanuts caught fire back in the 19th century, when the elephants were new to the world of entertainment and, thus, the center of people’s curiosity and attraction. Back then, the authorities of zoos and circuses had not banned visitors from feeding the animals.
Whenever the people visited zoos or circuses, on the entrance they would find snack-vendors moving around, selling the people peanuts in small bags.
In order to convince more people to buy from them, these vendors declared that the elephants liked being fed peanuts, and all the people, knowing little about elephants’ diet, complied. Thus, began the myth.
The ideal diet for elephants
Like all herbivores, the digestive of elephants is designed to let them eat all kinds of leaves and grasses with ease.
When they are living in the wild, the main diet of these mammals consists of grasses, bushes, flowers, as well as the leaves, bark, and roots of trees. They can also eat a large number of fruits, such as apples (not the green ones), pineapples, bananas, watermelons, etc. Asian Elephants also tend to eat bamboo lovingly.
However, when elephants are held captive in a zoo or a circus, their diet changes a bit. In captivity, they are mostly fed pellets and hay in addition to fruits and veggies. Occasionally, they also feed on trees and shrubs that they can find around them.
Do elephants like eating the marula fruit?
Yes. The trees of Marula grow in abundance in the forests of Africa. The African elephants are, thus, particularly fond of these fruits and pluck them straight from the branches. A myth of wild elephants getting drunk from eating rotten marula fruits is quite popular. However, a recent study has shown this to be untrue.
How much food can an elephant eat in a day?
On average, an elephant consumes about 10% of its body weight in a single day. Although most people don’t know it, elephants can only digest 40% of the food they consume every day, because of their inefficient digestive system.
This is why they need to eat such a large quantity of food in a day. Therefore, elephants also prefer to live in forests, where they have an unlimited source of food and water to get by.
Is it true that elephants can hear through their feet?
Yes. Elephants have sensory cells in their feet which allow them to detect any kind of vibration in the ground. These vibrations travel from their feet to their middle ear, which is why they can tell where the sound is coming from.
Do elephants drink water from their trunk?
No. The trunk of the elephants is an elongated nose, and elephants certainly can’t drink water from their nose. They only use their trunk to suck up water, and then transfer the water into their mouths.
Elephants often use their trunks like we use our hands, to hold things like fruits, vegetables, etc. In a day, elephants drink about 50 gallons of water; their trunk can hold about 2.5 gallons at once.
Conclusion: Do Elephants Eat Peanuts?
Returning to our initial question: do elephants eat peanuts? Yes, elephants do eat peanuts. However, this doesn’t mean that peanuts are healthy for them or are liked by them. They simply eat peanuts because they not refuse any food due to their large appetite.
Although peanuts are not lethal for elephants when fed in moderation, eating too many peanuts or too often might impact their health adversely. This is because the ratio of protein and fibers in peanuts is quite the opposite of what is ideal for these large mammals.
It is in fact healthier to feed them the shell of peanuts instead of the nuts inside.
The common belief about elephants liking peanuts is born from an old myth created for the benefit of the vendors. Thus, you should avoid feeding peanuts to elephants.