Feeding an elephant is a mammoth task. Feeding a camp of elephants is even harder. With each elephant eating upwards of 130kg of food a day, how do elephant camps meet the demand?
Given the amount elephants eat, it should come as no surprise that it takes a community effort to feed them. Elephant camps work with farmers from nearby villages to provide the amount of food needed. By entering into year-long contracts with the farmers, the elephants are given a secure supply of food and the farmers are given a guaranteed market for what they grow.
Some elephant camps organise a group pay system for the farmers, ensuring that different farms grow a variety of crops that can be harvested throughout the year. This spread of crops can include bamboo, sugar cane, and even the human favourite pineapple! Growing a variety of food means that there is always some available for the elephants in case of seasonal shortages.
It may seem obvious that if elephant camps need so much food they should grow it themselves, but this can be extremely difficult. A large amount of land is needed to grow the immense amount of food elephants require, and most camps simply do not have the space. Acquiring land for this from their national government is notoriously tricky.
One solution to this problem is to grow grasses in the elephant camps. Grasses are cheap and simple to grow as food and can provide additional revenue when tourists pay to cut it and feed it to the elephants. As well as using grass, elephant camps will purchase pellet food and store it for emergency food shortages. Conditions in the region of these elephant camps can sometimes delay the delivery of food, so these emergency and homegrown alternatives are essential.
Tourism has dried up for many elephant camps as the COVID-19 pandemic rages across the globe. Those located closer to the cities, which relied heavily on tourist revenue, have been hit the hardest. With such uncertainty as to when tourism will return, the community links these elephant camps have developed are more important than ever.
H-ELP recognises the immense amount of time and man-power required to feed just one elephant. That’s why we have partnered with LEI, GTAEF, and Elephant Stay to help distribute much needed funds. It costs $25 AUD to feed an elephant for a day, and we need your support.