You might wonder, if you can make paper out of their poop, what do elephants eat? In the wild they eat pretty much every single leaf, twig, branch, bark, tree, bush, grass, plant within trunk reach. After all, they need on average anything between 100 and 300 kilograms of food a day depending on their size! And they wash that down with about 200 liters of water a day!
In other terms, they eat about a dumpster of vegetables and they drink a bathtub of water a day. That’s how much they need to survive… in the wild.
Do you see now why their poop is perfect to make paper out of? They’re basically pre-processing a dumpster of fibers every day. And those fibers, together with recycled rice paper make all the products you see on our webshop.
In captivity they are usually fed less than that simply because they also consume less energy. We fed them different foods, 4 of which we’ll highlight today. Can you guess them?
Just take a minute to think about it. Write it down and check the answers while reading the rest of this post.
Uh? What is that even?
The kithul tree is a unique type of palm tree found in Sri Lanka and India. The tree has a sweet resin inside similair to the maple tree that elephants LOVE!
The elephants would break it with one kick of their paw, and snatch out the sweet fibers from the inside. Only later they would chew up the bark.
Kithul logs were also an important moment for volunteers. And here’s why.
When I was there we would “put the elephant to bed” in the evening. We would walk together with the caretaker to the night area and bring some food for the night. Usually the elephants will carry the kithul logs arranged in batches of 6 and tied together so that the elephants can easily lift them with their trunk. They make it look easy, trust me. So easy that you start wondering whether the logs are in fact hollow haha.
Anyways, once arrived at the night area, the big test begins. The kithul logs are split in half to help the elephant reach the inside of the trunk and get the sweet fibers. When the mahout start trusting you (the volunteer) that’s when they give you their precious axe – usually hidden somewhere in the jungle – and tell you the split the log.
At the beginning they just straight out crack up because us westerners volunteers are either too scared to swing it properly or just clumps overall. After all, when do we usually split stuff with an axe?! Give it a few tries, I was chopping logs so fast I could have easily joined the world woodwork competition!
Little side note: they also make a syrup from the sweet kithul log and IT IS AMAZING!
If I told you to name a few things that can kill you in a jungle, you’d probably start thinking about all kinds of weird looking insects, bacteria and diseases. Well, that will definitely do the trick. But there’s one thing that people usually forget: the jackfruit.
If you’ve ever travelled to South America or South East Asia you might have noticed some heavy spiky fruits hanging at the side of a thin slim palm-looking tree. That is jackfruit. They can weight up to 55 kilograms! When the fruits are too ripe, they usually fall from heights of 10 – 15 meters…
Elephants only eat fresh jackfruit leaves, some of them even like them wet. The old ones are used to create a soft layer in their night area for them to lay and sleep.
What’s funny tho is the way Sri Lankans pick jackfruits leaves. To get the fresh ones you have little choice but to get your a*# up there and cut them!
How do they do that?!
Well, here’s the trick. They take two palm leaflets of a palm leaf. Twist it tight and make a knot around your ankles. With that they can have a strong hold with their feet while they climb the tree all the way up to get the jackfruit. You know what else they pick using this technique?
Yup. Coconut leaves. Those would come in fresh every day, from the jungle.
We would make a nice beam of leaves so that the elephant could lift it and take it to the bed.
Coconuts are another entry of the list of things that can kill you in the jungle. They are not as heavy as jackfruit but they are harder and fall from higher heights.
What Sri Lankans do to collect the leaves (and the coconuts, mainly for us to drink) is again climb all the way up, with no protection and just their feet tied in a knot. This time it even looks scarier than climbing a jackfruit tree. The coconut tree is much thinner and taller than a jackfruit! Once up there, they take out a knife (that has been carried in their sarong while climbing) and start chopping both leaves and coconuts while holding themselves with one hand to one of the leaves.
Elephants in the wild have access to a wider variety of food. To help the elephants in captivity get as complete a diet as possible, some caretakers take them to morning walks in the jungle or in the wild grass fields where the elephants can get all their vitamins from. We will talk more about food supplements and vitamins for elephants in a later blog post.