What Animals Eat Bamboo? 8 Examples (with Pictures)

Giant Pandas
Photo: Hugh Llewelyn / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Giant pandas may be the most famous bamboo eating animals, but they’re not the only ones, with many people asking what animals eat bamboo. There are several other species with plant-based diets that include this particular plant in their everyday course of meals.

Find out what animals eat bamboo from the list below:

  • Elephants
  • Giant Pandas
  • Red Pandas
  • Chimpanzees
  • Mountain Gorillas
  • Golden Monkey
  • Bamboo Rat
  • Bamboo Lemurs

* Note: animals are ranked in order of their search volume.

1. Elephants

Photo: Vaughan Leiberum / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Scientific name (Family): Elephantidae

To be exact, the Asian elephant is the bamboo eater in the family, but other species would probably enjoy it too if they could get their hands on some. Bamboo is a very common plant in Asia, so it’s easy for them to get their trunks on some.

These giants can eat up to 330 pounds of plants per day! Because of this, a herd of elephants can clear out a small bamboo forest in a matter of days. Luckily for them, bamboo is an incredibly fast-growing plant, so there’s very rarely a shortage.

2. Giant Pandas

Giant Pandas
Photo: Hugh Llewelyn / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Ailuropoda melanoleuca

The giant panda is by far the most well-known animal that eats bamboo. Not only do they eat it in massive amounts, but they also make it their primary source of nutrients.

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If there’s a bamboo shortage, they’ll resort to grass and other plants, but in the wild, they’ll always prefer living in bamboo forests as they’re full of their favorite food.

3. Red Pandas

Red Panda
Photo: Kenneth Barrett / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Scientific name: Ailurus fulgens

A cousin of the giant panda, red pandas also eat bamboo. For them, it’s the most beloved food, and even though they’re characteristically small animals, they’ll eat over 3 pounds of bamboo leaves in a day, or even 9 pounds of fresh bamboo shorts.

These animals, despite their tiny size, will also eat other birds and small mammals if they manage to get their hands on some, but they’ll usually settle for bamboo. They live in more or less the same areas as giant pandas, and bamboo forests are their favorite habitat.

4. Chimpanzees

Two young chimpanzees playing
Photo: Tambako the Jaguar / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Pan troglodytes

Chimpanzees prefer fruit to any other substance when it comes to feeding, but bamboo comes into play if it’s available too. Although bamboo season is relatively short in Africa and they don’t have much time to eat it, chimpanzees will make use of what they have.

They will eat both the leaves and the shoots if they have the opportunity, but they’ll also eat other plants, seeds and even meat if they stumble upon a carcass.

5. Golden Monkey

Male golden monkey
Photo: David Bygott / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Cercopithecus kandti

This species of monkey, predominantly found in central Africa, usually lives in bamboo forests as bamboo is its favorite food. They’ll eat leaves, shoots and branches.

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However, they’ll gladly eat fruit when they come across it, leaving bamboo behind, although fruit isn’t available throughout the entire year. They eat so much bamboo because it’s available throughout the entire year.

6. Mountain Gorillas

Mountain Gorilla
Photo: Jason Hall / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Gorilla beringei beringei

Gorillas, despite their massive size and impressive muscle structure, are actually plant eaters. They consume over 142 plant species in the wild, with bamboo being one of those species.

Males will eat more than 40 pounds of leaves and shoots per day, while females eat about 33 pounds of food each day. Similar to the chimpanzee, they can’t eat bamboo throughout the entire year, as bamboo doesn’t grow for the entire year.

7. Bamboo Rat

Giant bamboo rat
Photo: Chris Wood / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Scientific name (subfamily): Rhizomyinae

Bamboo rats are exactly what you think they are – rats that feed primarily on bamboo. There are four species of these rodents, all living in Asia, and all of them primarily feed on bamboo.

If the opportunity arises, they will eat other roots, but bamboo is their primary source of nutrients. What’s interesting about these rats is that they can grow to weigh 9 pounds! Because of their weight, they’re particularly slow and immobile, but they can still be dangerous to farmers as they’re agricultural pests.

8. Bamboo Lemurs

Eastern lesser bamboo lemur
Photo: Frank Vassen / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Scientific name (genus): Hapalemur

The final entry on our list, bamboo lemurs, is one of the few species of animal to eat bamboo almost exclusively. They live only in Madagascar, preferring dense, bamboo forests to open areas.

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There, they spend the majority of their life high up in the trees, where bamboo is essentially their only source of food. It’s still unknown to zoologists how they are able to process the massive amounts of cyanide found in bamboo.

To Finish

When you think about what animals eat bamboo, remember that the giant panda is without a doubt the most famous animal to eat this plant, but their smaller cousins, the red pandas, are another species to add to the list.

There are also chimpanzees and mountain gorillas which only eat bamboo seasonally, while bamboo lemurs and rats eat it all the time. The bamboo lemur could be the most dependent animal when it comes to bamboo, as it’s the only animal on the list to exclusively eat this plant.

James Ball

James has had a lifelong passion for animals and nature, tracing back to his childhood where he first began fostering intimate knowledge and connection with pet frogs and snakes. He has since honed this interest into a career as a trained Wildlife Biologist, specializing in Biogeography, sustainability and conservation. In addition to his professional pursuits, James maintains an active lifestyle, regularly indulging in outdoor activities such as hiking, and musical pursuits like playing piano and swimming.

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