Elephant drinking

Elephants trunk is not a drinking-straw, with the help of their unique lung physiology they suck up about 10 liters of water into their trunk, and blows the water into the mouth. In the nature elephants go to water wholes or lakes in the early morning and in evening at dusk, often combined with bathing.

During winter, they may drink only once, in the middle of the day,

Most often, they try to drink as clean water as possible, often digging until they reach water which has been filtered through the sand.

Normally, they do not bother to drink in company of other elephants, or other species, but in situations of draught they loose their altruistic nature and they may protect thair water against other species, and they can even push away elephant calfs from their water-hole.

Dan giving water to african elephants at Circus Krone, Germany.
(Photo © Jutta Kirchner, Vienna Zoo)

For captive elephants its normally enough to give them water twice a day, if its not extremely hot.

Do not stress the elephants when drinking, and see to that every animal can drink in peace without conflict with its companions. During hot days they will apreciate a shower and drinking in the middle of the day.

If you give elephants cold water to drink, especially in the morning when they may have less food in the stomach, you may exeperience that they shoke and shiver, especially older elephants, and therefore one must only use soak warm water. Its a good idea to mesure how much they drink, preferable daily, and at least every second week, so you have an idea about every individuals normal consumtion.

How much do elephants drink?

Adult elephants drink between abt 70 and 200 litres/day, depending on the temperature.
An extreme higher intake may indicate that something is wrong, and therefore it is important to know what is "normal" for every animal.An indivual span upto some 200 litres is acceptable, above that is not OK and should be researched. Elephants suffering from TBC might have an intake upto 600 litres a day.

Analyze the water

Every facility should analyze their drinking water, to make sure it doesnt have dangerous level of metal. The samples should be taken in early morning, when the water has been standing still in the pipes during the night. Look for levels of Zink, Copper and such, and check if the pH-level is below 7. If pH is blow 7, metal has a tendency to follow the water.