EleFact Friday: Digestion Situation

With their incredible size, elephants need an incredible digestive system to keep up with the amount of food it takes to keep them going. For today’s EleFACT Friday, we’ll be talking about elephant stomachs.

You may think that elephants have more than one stomach, like a cow, but that’s actually not true. The elephant’s original stomach is instead subdivided into four different compartments: the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum. These compartments aid in breaking down the fibrous plant-based material that elephants are consuming daily. If the stomach is working properly, the entire digestive process will take 36-48 hours. This is quite slow compared to humans and other animals, partially due to the large amounts of food that an elephant is eating at a single time.

When eaten, food will stay in the rumen for up to 24 hours. The fibrous food material will cause this compartment to swell up and become full. After leaving the rumen, food is broken down into small particles in the reticulum, then travels to the omasum, where the contents are mixed with digestive fluids and more saliva for further breakdown. The food then gets absorbed through the wall of the omasum and flows into the abomasum, where it is finally mixed with enzymes and acids, to travel to the intestines. 

The digestive system is imperative to the overall health of the elephant. As we have shared before, the elephants here at ESB receive a wide variety of produce and other plant-based materials which allows us to closely monitor what and how much they are eating. It’s important for us to pay close attention to any changes within their feeding, as it could indicate that something isn’t working quite right.

P.S.: Don’t forget to tune in to our Trunks & Treasures Live Virtual Event, tomorrow June 10th at 7 pm EDT. We will be live on Facebook and YouTube with sanctuary updates and auction item highlights. Plus, we’ll have some special guests and announcements you won’t want to miss.

Photo of Rana



  1. REPLY
    Julie says

    Fascinating! By the way, there are some fabulous items in Trunks & Treasure.

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      Thank you! And we think so, too.

  2. REPLY
    Julie says

    By the way, is it Lady pictured?

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      I should have labeled it. Thanks for catching that. It’s Rana.

  3. REPLY
    Barb says

    Excellent review of elephant digestion! I do wonder if elephants have such a sophisticated digestive system that they don’t often get colic.

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      Elephants do get colic. We keep a close eye on that.

  4. REPLY
    Alejandra Enquin says

    Si pobrecita MARA que tuvo tantos problemas gastrointestinales !! Y por suerte gracias a los cuidados ,comidas extras, y separadas sus extras de la colaboracion de Rana y Bambi, pudo mejorar!!

  5. REPLY
    Terry says

    What a great educational piece! Thanks! Maybe I was an elephant in another life because my food keeps rumen around in my system for a long time🤣🤣🤣!

  6. REPLY
    Carey says

    Such a useful bit of info, thanks Sara. Is Mara’s digestive system better and is she eating well now? lovely pic of Rana (smiling)

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      Mara still gets a little extra food at mealtime, just to make sure her weight stays steady. But she’s doing well.

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