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A Nut Snack for Maia

Maia

Maia prefers palm fronds to palm nuts, but we do find them in her dung from time to time. Guida loved palm nuts and, when they first arrived, Maia would knock down palm trees, and Guida would delight in eating most of them while Maia focused on the leaves. One of the elephants’ favorite palm nuts is from the Macaw Palm, locally nicknamed “chiclete cuiabano.” Chiclete cuiabano translates as “the gum of people of Cuiabá” because part of the tree is collected and used as chewing gum.

We have quite a few types of palms here – at least six or seven. Some of them produce smaller palm nuts (sometimes referred to as palm fruits), which the elephants prefer. One type of palm produces large nuts, which we haven’t seen any of the elephants eat before.

After Maia visited the burned area of Yard 5, we noticed that she had some undigested large palm nuts in her dung. There were around 20-25 palm nuts, approximately 3”-4” (7-10 cm). They are edible, but it’s not surprising that they weren’t digested – elephants digest their food with around 50% efficiency. The only reason it is notable is that she has never eaten those palm nuts before.

The palm she was eating is from the Attalea speciosa (commonly called babaçu) tree. We aren’t sure how those palm nuts specifically react to fire, but we do know those trees are highly resistant to fire. In general, fire can melt the endocarp layer (which is an inner layer whose sole purpose is to protect the seed from seed-eaters) of many types of palms. The heat of a fire can also dry them, making them more palatable to many species. Additionally, fire helps many plants (including palms) by increasing germination rates. Passing through an elephant’s digestion track is also known to increase the likelihood of a seed germinating.

Sometimes we notice the elephants will self-medicate. We don’t think that was the case here. While the fruit is high in vitamin E, it isn’t known for any applicable medicinal uses. We suspect the fire-related changes to the palm nuts made them more palatable. Our other guess is Maia chose not to go an entire day without snacking, so she ate the nuts just because they were the best food available at the moment.

October 31. 2020

Comments(8)

  1. REPLY
    FRANCINE FORD says

    Ma is likes her nuts fire roasted. 🙂 I’m finding these blogs very fascinating, educational & informative. Speaks of the resilience of plants & the animals who live among them. Thank you for posting & sharing with us all.
    ❤🐘❤🐘❤🐘❤🐘❤🐘

    • REPLY
      Carol from Canada says

      I agree with you, Francine, and Julie… Yes, these posts are just fascinating. And satisfying to read! I look forward to them with much anticipation, and read with great relish. Cheers!

  2. REPLY
    SHEILA says

    MAIA, 🐘U R A VERY RESOURCEFUL LADY❗️ SO CAN U NOT CRUNCH THISE BIG🌰 PALM NUTS IN 🐘🦷UR TEETH?? LOVELY U R TRYING TO HELP ENVIRONMENT TO GROW MORE OF THOSE PALM TREES FROM SPREADING NUTS ABOUT IN UR DUNG! I THINK THATS A GREAT ENVIRONMENTAL THING TO DO AND WE KNOW ELEPHANTS ARE GREAT HELPERS IN ENVIRO ISSUES! HOPE U CAN EAT LITS OF PALM FRAWNS THIS WEEKEND!!
    GREAT INFO ON THE BIG NUT FIRE RESISTANT PALM 🌴🌴TREES!!

  3. REPLY
    Julie says

    Thank you for this post. I am intensely fascinated and thirsty for news of environmental resilience. Just as I am fascinated and thirsty for stories of people just doing the good work of conservancy.

  4. REPLY
    Nancy Shaw says

    Once Again. HAHAHAHA

  5. REPLY
    Rosie P says

    This is so interesting! I love reading about the different plants in the habitat and how the elephants and other wildlife relate to them. So fire can actually help palms and other plants to increase germination…fascinating. Out of the flames comes rebirth. Isn’t Nature wondrous!
    I’m looking out of my window right now through the rain at a full arc of a rainbow. England is going into lockdown again on Thursday so I look at this rainbow as a sign of hope and ESB at its end….the Pot of Gold!

  6. REPLY
    Wim says

    Maia you’re a very smart lady. Your menu is so balanced and intelligent. Lovely how you find your way after the fires. Stay safe eat what you discover.🙏🐘🙏

  7. REPLY
    Carey says

    Nature so endlessly fascinating, and so many different types of palm. Great for the elephants and all life. You are becoming wild fire experts and we’re learning too, thank you for that info. Do we know how many different palms there are in Asia and which are eaten by elephants in the wild?

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