Water from elephant dung

Letaba Ranch, Limpopo province, South Africa;

Elephants are a kind of dung producing machines

African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in the wild are foraging about 150 – 180 kg plant material per day. And they also drink about 350 liters of water. Consequently they excrete every day about 10 – 12 times with a total weight of all these excretions of about 100 kg. And – due to their specific digestive system – their body only utilizes about 40% of the ingested food mass. The rest is turned out again. And this fresh elephant dung contains about 8% of moisture. This dung also contains elevated levels of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. And it got a similar bacterial load like other herbivores.

If somebody is interested in all the current uses of elephant dung, they can be read here.

How to drink water from elephant dung?

At a certain Nature Guide training facility in the South Africa, it is common practice that the students are getting trained for emergency situations. There, they also have to take some sips of elephant dung water in order to know this practice and get an idea of the taste of such water. During all these times, there was no case of bad stomach or any other health consequences observed by students.

Both, students and instructors, take a handful of fresh elephant dung and squeeze it over the inverted thumb directly into the mouth. The taste of this water is quite bitter and it smells of fresh hay, but is otherwise quite drinkable. It however should be avoided to trickle some of this water outside the mouth on to exposed skin or on to clothing. Because the smell will definitely linger there for some time. I therefore would propose to squeeze the elephant dung over a container and drink from the container.

An instructor told me, that ‘Sangomas’ (African traditional healers) use elephant dung for healing purposes. Elephants forage on a variety of plants and many of the plant ingredients are still present in these dung balls, thereby acting as medicines.

Lessons learned on drinking water from elephant dung

  • In Big-5 areas in Southern Africa, elephant dung is quite omnipresent.
  • Fresh dung droppings will be found concentrated at elephant paths and water holes.
  • Squeezing fresh dung material produces a surprising amount of dung water.
  • Elephant dung water tastes bitter and is full of bacteria, but does not harm the person drinking it.