Why Do Baby Elephants Eat Mum Dung?

Baby Elephants Eat Dung – In the fascinating world of wildlife, it’s not uncommon to witness newborn elephants engaging in a somewhat unconventional behavior: consuming the dung of their mothers. However peculiar it may seem, this behavior serves a crucial purpose for the young elephants’ survival and development. Like many other young animals such as rhinos, hippos, and warthogs, baby elephants rely on feces as a source of essential microorganisms necessary for their digestion and overall health.

Elephants are categorized as hindgut fermenters, meaning that after the initial stages of digestion in the stomach and small intestine. Also the bulk of the breakdown process occurs in the large intestine through fermentation facilitated by bacteria. When baby elephants are born, they do not possess the requisite microorganisms in their digestive systems to digest plant materials effectively. To acquire these vital bacteria, they turn to consuming their mother’s or other herd members’ feces as a means of inoculating their own digestive tracts.

Remarkably, water comprises about 75% of elephant feces, with the remaining 25% consisting of indigestible fibers. Also dead bacteria, salts, dead cells, mucus, and live bacteria in roughly equal proportions. It is these live bacteria that play a crucial role in enhancing their immune systems. By ingesting their mother’s feces, young elephants gain access to these essential microorganisms. This ultimately contribute to their growth, health, and overall well-being in their formative stages of life.

Why Do Most Animals In Africa Eat Dung?


Coprophagia, the consumption of fecal matter, is a behavior observed in various African animals. While it may seem unusual and even shocking to humans, many animals practice this behavior regularly. The rationale behind this behavior is quite simple: because animals’ digestive systems do not fully utilize all the nutrients from their food, their droppings still contain valuable nutrients that have not been fully digested and absorbed.

For example, hyenas, known for consuming bones as part of their diet, produce scat that is rich in calcium. This calcium-rich scat becomes an important dietary supplement for other animals like leopard tortoises. This aids in the hardening of their eggshells and providing essential nutrients for their reproductive success.

Similarly, rabbits and hares have rapid digestive systems that often do not absorb all the necessary nutrients from food during the first pass. To compensate, they have adapted to eat their feces. This process known as coprophagy, in order to extract additional nutrients that were missed during initial digestion. This behavior ensures that they maximize their nutrient intake and maintain optimal health despite the limitations of their digestive systems.

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