There has always been a connection in people’s minds between elephants and feeding them peanuts. Elephants do indeed eat peanuts – but perhaps they shouldn’t. The theory is that they actually just liked the idea of eating them as something to do.
Why Do Elephants Eat Peanuts?
Elephants eat peanuts – and they always have – because they were fed them. It is believed today, however – that elephants don’t really like the taste of peanuts – they actually just liked the idea of eating them as something to do. A way of getting human attention in an often lonely and boring zoo enclosure.
Peanuts were cheap and so people didn’t mind sharing them with the big old elephant – even though they can be incredibly unhealthy.
Strangely – elephants would never have ever eaten a peanut in the wild when elephants first started filling up zoos – it was totally alien to them. Peanuts are a root vegetable found in South America and elephants are a mainly tree-eating African or Asian mammals. The two wouldn’t have ever met.
Today, zoos and sanctuaries that care for elephants in more natural or enrichment-filled enclosures find that many elephants won’t even eat peanuts. Postulating from this that the common myth of elephants liking peanuts was actually driven by other factors – likely boredom and sadness when living alone.
Elephants are very emotional animals and also very interactive animals and so would have behaved very differently in the conditions they lived in in the past. They didn’t have the opportunity then of showing more of their natural behaviours like they do today.
And it seems that the natural behaviour of elephants is not to eat peanuts?
Would An Elephant Eat Meat?
Similar to above – elephants in their natural healthy environment – are herbivores – and would never actively seek out meat to eat.
They don’t have the teeth for chewing or tearing meat – and they don’t have the gut for digesting it fully. Therefore eating meat would either be through a serious problem with their normal behaviours or through inappropriate care.
Elephants may well accidently eat other animals – such as ants and bugs on branches and leaves – and they may well have recently been caught on video eating chicks from birds nests? Whether this was by accident when eating the nest fibres like a welcome hay snack – or actually intentional – was never 100% clear. But it happened nonetheless.
Some sources say that fish have also been eaten by elephants – but again – whether they intended to do so is also debatable.
Is An Elephant A Vegan?
If you are thinking of the way an elephant doesn’t eat meat (or animal products) – then you could loosely say an elephant was a vegan. Human vegans do just that – avoid all animal products – food or otherwise.
However, technically – a ‘vegan’ has made a choice to only eat a plant-based diet – something an elephant didn’t (and actually can’t do). Therefore an elephant is biologically classed as a herbivore (an animal that lives almost entirely on plant materials). Even vegetarianism implies some kind of choice.
These three words (herbivore, vegetarian and vegan) are often used interchangeably when in fact they all have a specific meaning that differentiates them precisely. They should therefore be used correctly if they are to be of any biological use or as ethical comparisons.
Do Elephants Swim in Order to Find Peanuts?
Elephants’ swimming abilities are truly remarkable. While they may not swim specifically to find peanuts, these majestic creatures are natural swimmers. With their buoyant bodies and powerful trunks that help them breathe, elephants gracefully glide through water. However, their swimming skills are not driven by a search for peanuts, but rather a necessity for crossing rivers, cooling down, or seeking safety.
What Is An Elephant’s Favorite Food?
So, if it isn’t peanuts or meat – what things are an elephant’s favorite foods? Well, due to their size and the amount of food they need to eat to survive every day – their favorite food is basically anything growing above ground?
As long as it is a plant of some sort – they will eat it. Leaves, twigs, flowers, fruits, roots, bark and seeds – any part of any plant will do. They vary what they eat depending on where they are at the time (and captive animals have different choices) – but basically they are always on the hunt for food in the wild. Always moving – always searching.
Obviously they have to eat more of it if it is less nutritious – and often elephants only sleep for 2 hours a day because they just have to keep eating. If they are lucky enough to find highly-nutritious fruits and leaves they can enjoy more time wallowing or searching for water, but when eating bark, twigs and dry grasses – they might be getting their vitamin and minerals – but they must eat more food overall.
Ingesting between 200 and 600 pounds of food a day isn’t an easy job for anyone – but essential for elephants throughout the year.