Drunken elephant myth exposed
Folk lore has it elephants can get drunk by eating fermented fruit rotting on the ground, but a study debunks that claim, despite "eyewitness" accounts.
The study -- to appear in the March-April issue of the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology -- says anecdotes of drunken elephants go back more than a century.
Steve Morris, a biologist at the University of Bristol in England and a co-author of the study told National Geographic News, "People just want to believe in drunken elephants."
The tales say elephants eat rotten fruit that falls from African marula trees, a member of the same family as the mango.
But Morris says it's unlikely an elephant would eat fruit if it were rotten, more-or-less wait for it to ferment.
In any case, producing a liter of marula wine requires 200 fruits. So an elephant would have to eat more than 1,400 well-fermented fruits quite quickly to start to get drunk.
National Geographic News commented: It may make for a good story and a durable myth, but you're not likely to ever see a drunken elephant sitting under a marula tree.
Copyright 2005 by United Press International