Saving the seeds

In Africa, elephants have become crucial partners for acacias. This may seem surprising as when food is short they are also great destroyers of acacias, using their great bulk and strength to knock the tree down to eat their branches. But without elephants some species of acacia would barely survive. Each year, acacias produce huge amounts of seed and lots of animals come to feed on them. From inside the pod, the seeds are also threatened by beetle grubs that will eat all the seeds, unless they are stopped. Monkeys, also come to eat the seeds, pods and all, chewing the whole lot very thoroughly. Elephants are different, they greatly relish the seed pods which are highly nutritious, but they don't chew their food into such a fine mash as monkeys do. Having fed on the acacia seed pods, the elephants move on, walking for several miles before they deposit the remains of their digested meal. The acacia seeds eaten by the elephant will have spent at least 24 hours inside its stomach. That hasn't harmed the seeds but it has killed the beetle grubs which threatened their survival in the pods. The seeds deposited in the elephant dung have a 90% chance of survival, however, seeds in pods that are left uneaten on the ground will nearly all be destroyed by beetle grubs. So Acacia seeds eaten by an elephant have not merely been transported, they have been saved from near-certain death.

Release date:


4 minutes


Role Contributor
Key talentDavid ATTENBOROUGH
Key talentMike SALISBURY
Camera OperatorNeil BROMHALL
Camera OperatorRod CLARKE
Camera OperatorTrevor DE KOCK
Camera OperatorRichard GANNICLIFFT
Camera OperatorJohn HADFIELD
Camera OperatorRichard KIRBY
Camera OperatorHugh MILES
Camera OperatorIan McCARTHY
Camera OperatorMichael PITTS
Camera OperatorTim SHEPHERD
Camera OperatorGavin THURSTON
Camera OperatorJohn WATERS

This clip is from

Featured in...