In this guide, we’ll answer the question:
“What eats elephants?”
First, you’ll find a short summary of what animals eat elephants in the wild and then get a detailed list of elephant predators.
Elephants are the largest existing land mammals. There are three living species of elephants: the African bush elephant, African forest elephant, and Asian elephant.
These massive mammals are scattered throughout sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia and found in different habitats, including forests, deserts, savannahs, and marshes.
The average lifespan of an elephant depends on the species. The African bush and forest elephants are 60-70 years while the Asian elephant is 48 years.
What Eats Elephants?
Animals that eat elephants include crocodiles, hyenas, lions, tigers, wild dogs, and humans. However, adults elephants generally do not have predators because of their massive size unless they are weak, injured, or sick. Young and newborn elephants are the most vulnerable to attacks and being eaten.
Crocodiles are dangerous predators that lurk along the river banks to find an easy meal.
Most commonly a crocodile eats elephants that are young but will also hunt injured or sick adult elephants that wade in the water at a drinking spot.
Crocodiles stealthily stalk an elephant from the water and ambush them on the river banks. They target the trunk of an elephant and drag them into the water.
Nonetheless, crocodiles are sometimes overpowered when they target a healthy adult elephant or when it gets assistance from the herd and can be trampled to death or severely injured.
Hyenas are generally smaller than some of the animals they hunt, like elephants. But the size difference doesn’t stop this animal from attacking larger prey.
Hyenas are known to be successful hunters because of their ability to adapt their hunting strategy to their habitat and target.
These predators hunt in packs called “clans” with up to 80 members and rely on wits and outnumbering their prey to compensate for their smaller size and insufficient killing power.
Hyenas subdue elephants, especially young and ill ones, by biting and dragging them to the ground as a group.
Lions are categorized as apex predators because of their ability to dominate their habitat.
And lions are the only animals that eat elephants with enough power to take an adult elephant down without a lot of extra help from a pack or clan. However, newborn elephants are the most vulnerable to attacks by lions because they are easier prey.
Even though elephants have a size advantage over lions, they cannot match their strength.
Male lions are better suited to kill an elephant than female lionesses because of the weight advantage. A male lion is 50% heavier than a lioness; hence, the male has more power.
Two male lions can easily kill an elephant because of their raw strength while it would take seven lionesses to take down and eat the same size elephant.
With all that being said, even though lions are fast and strong, they mostly target young elephants which are the easiest of prey.
Adult elephants are usually safe from a tiger attack, but young elephants in a herd are considered easy prey.
Even though tigers can sometimes attack fully-grown elephants, killing them is not easy because adult elephants can easily trample a tiger to death.
Tigers are renowned for their strength and power, which they combine the ability to stalk prey stealthily.
When hunting a young, sick, or injured elephant, a tiger will typically wait until the animal is far away from the herd and then target the neck for a faster kill.
African wild dogs are regarded as intelligent and efficient hunters because they focus on tiring their prey.
Wild dogs usually target young elephants as their size cannot allow them to take down a full-grown adult elephant.
In addition, African wild dogs lack big powerful jaws, making it hard to subdue a large animal like an elephant when they are alone. However, wild dogs are successful elephant predators because they hunt in a pack of 20 or more.
Nonetheless, it is rare for wild dogs to target a young elephant unless they cannot find their preferred prey, such as antelopes, warthogs, and buffalo calf.
Humans play a significant role in the decline in elephant population and extinction of their species.
Humans target elephants for meat, skin, and ivory tusks. The high value of ivory tusks explains the prevalence of poachers. Ivory tusks remain a highly demanded product in Asian markets, particularly China.
According to data from World Elephant Day, approximately 100 African elephants are killed yearly for meat and ivory. The population of elephants has significantly declined in Africa since elephant meat is a delicacy.
What Do Elephants Eat?
Elephants are herbivores that must eat vegetation to survive.
You can visit our other guide on what do elephants eat to find out more about what these mammals feed on for nutrition.
Animals That Eat Elephants Summary
You now know what eats elephants in the wild and which species are the top elephant predators.
As you discovered in this guide, there are about 6 animals that eat elephants in nature; however, it’s no easy task taking down the largest land mammal on earth.
I’m the lead editor and writer for Animal Answer Guide. I enjoy sharing expert knowledge on the various characteristics of common species within the five distinct groups of animals: amphibians, birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles.