Why does Mopane eat elephant dung?

Many a curious eyebrow is raised, when people learn that Mopane, an orphaned elephant calf at HESC, often enjoys eating a decent portion of fresh adult elephant dung.
It may sound strange, but it is a natural phenomena called “coprophagia” that is seen in many animals, not only elephants, whereby they eat the feces of their elders.  It is most common in baby elephants that are transitioning from drinking only milk to including solid foods into their diets.

Adine feeding Mopane elephant dung. Photo taken a few months ago.

It is important that young elephants digest fresh feces, as this assists them in digesting the vegetation that they eat, by obtaining important bacteria that they don’t produce on their own, at a young age. In essence, it creates healthy bacteria to aid digestion of plants.

Fortunately, we have the Camp Jabulani elephant herd just a short distance away from us at HESC, one of our team will drive to the stables to get fresh dung for Mopane. But if Adine is on location at HESC, she will be the first one at the stables before sunrise, to collect it. (As seen in the video above).
The dung is collected early every morning, to make sure it is always fresh. This is yet another unique advantage that the Jabulani herd present to orphaned elephants that still require milk and human intervention to survive their early years, such as in the case of Mopane.