After sharing a couple posts lately of the sanctuary elephants snacking, whether it be Bambi with her watermelon or Maia and Guillermina sharing their hay, we’ve received a few questions about the diet that the girls receive here at sanctuary. Today’s EleFACT is all about food!
It’s important to share that all of the sanctuary elephants could likely live off of what the sanctuary habitat provides, as far as diet goes. Many of the treats that you see us share with them, like melons, grains, and hay, are supplemental. We supplement with grains, like oats and bran, and produce several times a day – or more if their individual needs require. The produce they get is more of a treat than having a significant nutritional benefit, but it serves a greater purpose in allowing us opportunities to observe subtle changes in behavior or appetite. By watching them eat for even just a few minutes, we can get some clues about any GI issues or teeth/mouth problems that may arise.
Another interesting fact about diet, especially in regards to the sanctuary, is that the Asian and African elephant habitats are a bit different as far as the environment goes. When we eventually bring African elephants to the sanctuary, they will have different grazing patterns than our current residents. Asian elephants are more of a grazing species while African elephants are browsers, so they will self correct when they arrive. The area we have selected for the African habitat is a different landscape, with more shrubs, bushes, and low lying trees, making it more appropriate for their diet. Even the grass is a bit different – more like Bermuda grass, which future residents will certainly enjoy.
One of the delights of sanctuary is being able to provide the elephants with even the smallest of comforts that they’ve never experienced before. Watermelons, papayas, jackfruit, and squash may just be a normal trip down the grocery aisle for us, but those snacks prove to us time and time again how much a small treat can make a big difference to these elephants who are so deserving of joy.
Photo of Bambi with her pumpkin