Do People Eat Elephants?

The relation between man and elephant is many centuries old. Hence it would be a good idea to know more about the meat-eating habits of people who were born and lived a few thousand or even hundreds of years ago.

Understanding this relationship will perhaps also let us know as to why there is a habit of eating elephant meat and also find the right answer to the question: do people eat elephants? 

Although a major section of the population may be strongly against killing elephants, the practice has been there for many hundreds of thousands of years. It still continues to be a practice in a few African countries that consider elephant meat to be delicious and of course nutritious. 

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Historical Perspective 

There are enough studies and research findings to believe that elephant meat could have been a source of food since age-old times. Human beings may have hunted elephants not only for their tusks but also for their meat.

There are enough findings to point out that African societies were proficient hunter-gatherers. They had the skill set and proficiency in hunting down elephants for their meat. There are some excavations to prove that the now-extinct straight-tusked elephants were hunted in large numbers.

A skeleton of a 400,000-year-old white tusked elephant was found. The excavation site had flint tools scattered all over the place. This is indicative of the possible fact that the huge elephant must have been killed and cut into pieces by a tribe for its food and meat. 

Cave painting by the San people depicting an elephant hunt taken in South Africa
Cave painting by the San people depicting an elephant hunt taken in South Africa

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What about modern times?

It would not be wrong to mention that today almost all species of elephants are hunted just to cater to the food requirements of some people across the world. Elephant meat-eating is not uncommon in countries like the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Central African Republic, and also the Democratic Republic of Congo.

While in many of these countries, elephants have been hunted for their tusks and ivory, the meat is also considered to be a valuable by-product and has been sold by the hunters. Elephant meat was also used to feed the hunting party as a reward for their efforts.

Wildlife experts were quite alarmed at this development and in 2007, they expressed concern over the fact that elephants were being killed in large numbers, especially in some parts of Africa, not for their ivory and tusks, but for their meat.

The number of elephants being poached by hunters for their meat has gone up significantly and the world wildlife authorities are extremely worried about this development. 

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Siege of Paris 

Franco Prussian War, Siege of Paris, 1870
Franco Prussian War, Siege of Paris, 1870

Those who may be aware of the siege of Paris that took place in 1870 will also be aware of the fact that two elephants by the name Pollux and Castor were brutally killed for meat. This happened in the Jardin des Plantes Zoo.

During the siege of Paris in 1870, there were many people that were pushed into the consumption of elephant meat because of a severe shortage of food.

Many other animals, along with Pollux and Castor were killed for meat. However, this practice did not continue because most Parisian people did not find it tasty and some even believed that it was not palatable. 

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Definition of a poacher
Definition of a poacher

The poaching and killing of elephants for meat and as food obviously depend on the demand vs supply situation. The demand for elephant meat is high in the four central African countries that have been mentioned above. In fact in the cities of the above four countries, eating elephant meat is considered to be prestigious.

Therefore, in terms of cost, elephant meats are quite higher when compared to other comparable animal meats. The selling of the tusks is also one more big incentive for hunters and this also pushes the price of elephant meat.

The people who are in the government, military, and the business world are the ones who fund the hunting and killing of elephants for their meat. It also offers a business opportunity for hunters and other parts of elephants like tusks are also used for making weapons and other artistic items.