EleFact Friday: The Tipsy Truth

Happy EleFACT Friday. Last weekend, we shared a video showing how inundated we are with mangoes, which oftentimes fall close to our property. We got several questions about what would happen if the fruit were to go bad before we could pick it up. There is a common misconception that fruit that gets left to decompose can often become fermented, and today we wanted to look into this further to see if it’s true — and if our elephants and their late night parties are fueled by some leftover fruit on the ground. 


Historically, stories have been shared that animals of several species, including elephants, have been known to eat fallen fruit and appear to be intoxicated. From African elephants supposedly eating overripe fruit from the marula tree, to a moose getting stuck in a tree after eating too many rotten apples, these stories range far and wide. The truth is that the amount of fruit that an elephant would need to eat to account for their large mass would be in large quantities, almost to the point where it would be impossible to eat that much. 

In comparison to humans, studies have shown that elephants don’t break down and metabolize ethanol as quickly as we can. In fact, human bodies possess an enzyme in the ADH7 gene that can help us metabolize ethanol 40 times faster than other primates. Elephants, and even their mammoth ancestors, do not possess this gene at all. 

As far as the elephants here at sanctuary getting a little wild with our mangoes, it’s very unlikely, if not impossible, that any of them will ever eat enough of the fallen fruit to feel the effects. In mango season, we make a point to collect the fruit from the ground before it can even begin to go bad and ferment. In the wild, if elephants were exposed to large amounts of fruit rotten on the ground, there could be a very slim possibility that eventually, after eating as much as they possibly can, they may feel a bit of a “buzz,” since they don’t possess the metabolizing gene. It seems as if this elephant myth is more of a question that may not have an answer; maybe we should call today EleTHEORY Friday instead?

Photo of Mara and some nice fresh fruit


  1. REPLY
    Beji says

    Love the thought of the girls knocking back a few on Fri afternoon happy hour. Too funny

  2. REPLY
    Nancy Shaw says

    Thank you for this Blog

  3. REPLY
    Tammy says

    I’ve often wondered that with my apple trees and squirrels they really do enjoy eating them! We all got to learn more about our girls today which is always fun so thank you for that! 🐘💗

  4. REPLY
    Sue says

    Regardless of what the truth may be, it is wonderful whenever the Ladies forage or eat fresh fruits in the wild. To see them discover and take advantage of these natural treats makes me smile! I love calling this one an EleTHEORY, wonderful!! Thank you for the blog, I was always curious about this theory having seen posts of supposedly tipsy Elephants ‘sleeping it off’!! 😄❤️🐘❤️

  5. REPLY
    Katie Howard says

    Ms Mara looks very happy and cute!

  6. REPLY
    Carey says

    They don’t need the gene!

  7. REPLY
    Marcia says

    Love the comment about “the girls knocking back a few on Friday afternoon”!! Just wondering what might happen to the rather shy ladies such as Lady and Maia if they did… Would they suddenly lose their inhibitions like humans and become social and loving? Or mean? Just joking, but it does ponder for thought.

  8. REPLY
    JoAnn Merriman-Eaton says

    So much fun!! Perhaps this accounts for the late night rumblings you have mentioned. I say good for the girls!!

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