An elephant putting water into mouth from trunk
How elephants drink

How Does An Elephant Drink Water?

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  • Post category:Elephants
  • Post last modified:21 September 2021
  • Reading time:7 mins read

Elephants generally drink water using their trunk. The elephants do this by sucking up the water in their trunks first and then transferring it to their mouths.

The extended trunk of an elephant is not just to drink water. The trunk also acts as a hand.

What is an elephants truck used for:

  • Assist other herd members in trouble
  • Bathing
  • Eat
  • Fight
  • Foraging
  • Greet other animals
  • Lift objects

An elephant can lift heavy objects weighing more than 350 kg.

Amount Of Water Elephants Need

To maintain their health, elephants tend to drink hundreds of litres of water every day. An adult elephant consumes up to 200 litres of water regularly. 

It takes about 5 minutes for an elephant to consume its daily dose of water. 

Generally, a fully grown elephant can drink 2.5 gallons of water at a time.

The regular water intake of an adult elephant is about 200 litres per day. However, this amount can significantly change if the elephant is unwell.

Not A Straw

Contrary to popular belief, elephants cannot use their trunk just like a straw while drinking water; instead, they use their trunks as a piece of equipment or tool for sucking water from the water reservoir. 

They use their trunks to then put the water inside their mouth in a hose-pipe-like manner.

Clean Water

Elephants are incredibly cleanliness-loving creatures. They do not drink muddy water. 

Elephants will use their trunk to clear the dirt off of the surface of the water before they start drinking. 

They will also use their tusks and often dig holes by the water resources to filter out the clean water before drinking.

Do baby elephants use their trucks for drinking water?

Even though the adult elephants use their trunk for drinking water, baby elephants cannot drink water in the same method at first. Like human babies, elephant babies also need to learn how they can use their trunks for drinking.

Until they learn to drink using their trunks, baby elephants drink directly from the water source through their mouths. 

If you observe elephant babies, you will notice that they often kneel on the ground to drink water.

Baby elephant kneeling down to drink water from lake
Baby elephant drinking water

Strong Trunks

Elephant trunks are made of more than 100,000 tendons and muscles. All these tendons and muscles create acute strength that supports the weight of gallons of water. 

The elephant trunk is a combination of their nose and upper lip. While drinking water, the elephants flare their nostrils to generate more space inside them.

How much water can an elephant such up their trunk?

Close up of an elephants trunk underneath
Elephants trunk underneath

Elephants can suck up around nine litres of water at any time and at a speed of 3 litres per second. 

This speed is about 30 times faster than human sneezing.

How do elephants find water during a drought?

Elephants are intelligent animals that can find drinking water from multiple resources like ponds, lakes, and rivers. Elephants with tusks often dig holes in the ground to find drinking water for themselves. However, there are water shortages during the summer months. During this time, the elephants face an arid climate when the natural water resources dry out. 

In this situation, the African elephants fulfil their water intake requirements from Baobab trees. These unique trees can store up to more than one thousand litres of water, perfect for the elephant to drink. 

Big Baobab tree
Baobab tree

During the summer months, the elephants will tear and chew the flesh of the Baobab trees to get the water and good nutrients that this tree has to offer.  

Recommended Read: What Do Elephants Eat and Drink? (Amount, Feeding Habits)

Amount of Water The Elephants Consume 

An elephant drinks between 70-200 litres (15-50 gallons) of water in a single day, depending on the temperature. The hotter the weather, the more an elephant needs to drink. The baby elephants generally rely more on their mother’s milk. That is why they drink less amount of water till they reach about ten years of age. 

How long can an elephant last without water?

The elephants can stay healthy without consuming a drop of water for up to four days. After this time, dehydration will set in and slowly, and the elephant will start to deteriorate. 

This ability helps the elephants to travel large distances in search of water. Generally, elephants tend to stay near water resources so that they do not suffer from dehydration. 

Elephants can sniff out water from more than five kilometres distance. 

The elephants tend to lose more than 10% of water weight during the summer months every day. That is why elephants stay near the water resources to avoid problems associated with dehydration. 

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Teresa Milne

Teresa is learning zoology and loves to share her knowledge through her articles. She has some pets that she adores two dogs, two cats, and one hamster. Teresa has also studied canine behaviour and canine nutrition.