Elephants eating lilies on the Chobe River

Elephants feasting on water lilies (known as ‘tswee’ in Setswana) on the Chobe River in Botswana.

African elephants feed for up to 16 hours a day and can eat around 150kg of vegetation a day, grazing on bushes, fruits, grasses, trees and lilies. Lilies are like a sweet treat. Under the water, elephants use their feet to dig out the roots of the lilies. They shuffle their front feet while grabbing with their trunks, and then pulling up a clump of white roots. They thrash around the lilies to remove any sand in the roots, as over time this sand wears down their teeth. Elephants only have four molars in use in their mouth at any one time; and have six sets of molars in their lifetime. As their molars wear out through relentless grinding, new molars push forward to replace them.