Earlier this week, we shared a video of Guillermina stripping bark from a tree and explained that this is typically a behavior shown by African elephants. For today’s EleFACT, we’ll satisfy the curiosities of our supporters and look further into this behavior.
African elephants are typically grazers during the rainy season, eating grass and herbs and browsing on leaves and shrubs. In the dry season when the grasses die back, they turn their attention to foraging from trees, finding leaves, twigs, roots, and bark to eat. Like many of you mentioned in the post about Guille, there are quite a few nutrients in the bark of trees, and African elephants can meet their vitamin and mineral needs by stripping it away for a snack.
Some African elephants can be highly selective of which individual trees they forage from; studies have shown that their selection may be based on the nutritional value of a specific plant, which they can determine by sampling individual parts of the tree. Things like soil type, climate factors, and age of the tree can affect the amount of nutrients a tree may be able to provide. If nutritional needs are not met by consuming plant matter, African elephants will create salt and mineral licks by using their tusks to dig pits in the soil.
All this information further proves how fascinating it is that Guille exhibited this behavior recently. Not only is it interesting to see her lean into her instincts, but it certainly keeps us on our toes about what she may show us in the future.
The link below from Elephant Voices shows different videos of what African elephants look like stripping bark.
Photo of Lady, enjoying the trees in her own way