Elephant Alimentary System - Anatomy & Physiology

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Elephant anatomy is very much comparable to the horse and rabbit. Microbes are present in the hindgut that produce Volatile Fatty Acids (VFAs). VFAs make a substantial contribution to the elephant's total energy requirements. Food has a relatively fast transit time and as a result, elephants have a low digestive efficiency (44% as opposed to 60% in horses). A fast transit time is achieved by a short GIT, reduced caecum and increased GIT diameter. Their digestive strategy is to pass as large a quantity of low quality food through their digestive tract within a short period of time.


An elephant's natural diet is high in fibre (36%) and low in protein (7-10%). Juvenile elephants require 3 kg of feed per 100kg of body weight per day. The passage time of food through the gastrointestinal tract ranges from 18 to 24 hours. They have no gall bladder and their taenia and sacculations are not as clearly defined as in the horse.

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