A Review of Asian and African Elephant Gastrointestinal Anatomy, Physiology, and Pharmacology

Elephant Gastrointestinal Anatomy, Physiology, and Pharmacology

  • Whitney Greene, D.V.M., M.S. Buttonwood Park Zoo
  • Ellen S. Dierenfeld, Ph.D.
  • Susan Mikota, D.V.M.
Keywords: African elephant, Asian elephant, Elephas maximus, gastrointestinal, Loxodonta africana, nutrition, pathology, pharmacology, physiology


Elephants are susceptible to a variety of gastrointestinal problems. Knowledge of elephant nutrition and gastrointestinal anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology is essential for successful treatment, especially because diagnostic options are limited. The horse is considered the most appropriate model for extrapolation to the elephant. While similarities do exist, elephant-specific information is needed, especially in the areas of nutritional requirements. This review seeks to present the current state of knowledge regarding the elephant gastrointestinal system and encourage research in those areas where information is questionable or lacking.

Review Articles