The Marula fruit: African booze for wild animals, or total myth?

Are you familiar with the Marula tree? If not, it’s a beautiful African tree that produces wonderful and tasty fruits! Yummy fruits, which apparently make elephants drunk… ? The story has been going on for ages… so much so that it has even become a liquor, called “Amarula” for connoisseurs (very tasty by the way, a little like Bailey’s)!

Don’t see anything wrong with the tree, do you?


The story is traced back to the 1970s (1974 to be exact), when a guy by the name of Jamie Uys produced two documentaries called “Beautiful People” (he also directed “The Gods Must Be Crazy”). The footage, among other things showing wild animals getting drunk after eating the marula fruits, became an immediate hit (and even received an award for best documentary). Since then millions of people are still persuaded that elephants do indeed get drunk with such “potent” fruits! The question is: is it true?

Genuine Info or Total Fallacy?

Sorry to disappoint you guys, but (un)fortunately (depends how you see it…) the story is absolutely false! In fact, Jamie Uys’ footage was totally staged and the animals were in fact fed with alcohol (hard to believe I know…). The directors soaked the food and then filmed it! Today the film would’ve made a scandal, but back then it was another story!

Apparently, if this whole “myth” was to be true, any person (or animal) would have to ingest 25% of its own body weight in fruit (in one go) in order to get drunk from it. Not very realistic! 😉

Fruit Characteristics

Marula fruits are very rich in vitamin C, and the nut is full of protein! In other words, the fruit is not only a delicacy for elephants, but also for most of the animals of the African savanna! Impala, kudu, nyala, baboons, warthogs and other creatures also feed on this delicious treat. They either get it directly from the ground, or thanks to the pachyderms that shake the trees to reach their prize.


Just thought I’d share the footage with you anyway… rather entertaining although a little unethical in my point of view! 🙂

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15 Responses to The Marula fruit: African booze for wild animals, or total myth?

  1. NickB October 9, 2017 at 12:57 am #

    I know this is old, but I was born and bred in Rhodesia, and in my time in the army, I have seen elephants eating Marulas and staggering around.

    • Michael Theys October 9, 2017 at 11:06 am #

      Very interesting Nick, thanks for sharing. When was this exactly? So from what you’ve experienced you’re saying they were in fact affected by the fruit?

      Would be helpful to learn more.

  2. Duncan March 26, 2010 at 5:57 pm #

    "The lore holds that elephants can get drunk by eating the fermented fruit rotting on the ground. Books have been written asserting the truth of the phenomenon, and eyewitness accounts of allegedly intoxicated pachyderms have even been made."

    "But a "new" study to be published in the March/April 2006 issue of the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology tells a very different story. "

  3. Yashar March 19, 2010 at 6:10 pm #

    "Later research showed that these scenes were improbable and, in all probability, staged. Elephants would need a huge amount of fermented marulas to have any effect on them, and other animals prefer the ripe fruit. The amount of water drunk by elephants each day would also dilute the effect of the fruit to such an extent that they would not be affected by it." (Wikipedia)

    • africafreak March 23, 2010 at 4:11 pm #

      Thanks for quoting this Yashar, appreciate it! 🙂

  4. Bobby Muck February 14, 2010 at 4:39 am #

    While that may be staged it is well documented that due to the slow digestive processes of elephants, the fruit does ferment in their stomachs and they do get drunk. I refer you to Peter H. Capstick — He's killed nearly a thousand elephants in his time as a professional hunter and government elephant cropper and he's seen this effect.

    • africafreak February 16, 2010 at 2:03 pm #

      Hi Bobby, thanks for the info!

      He's "killed nearly a thousand elephants in his time"…are you sure this guy's not a "butcher"? 🙂

      Will check him out, but to be honest with you I don't buy into the theory!



  5. africafreak October 5, 2009 at 5:22 pm #

    Stunning Marula Tree Picture from Check it out here! 😉

  6. Dorothee September 29, 2009 at 9:19 am #

    Hehe, of course! 😉

  7. Dorothee September 28, 2009 at 1:03 pm #

    And here’s the link to the Official Amarula Site (I absolutely love this liquor!):

    • africafreak September 28, 2009 at 9:04 pm #

      Thanks for the link Dorothee, and viva Amarula! To be drunk with moderation of course! 🙂

  8. Dorothee September 28, 2009 at 1:02 pm #

    I always loved the part when the animals are "drunk" in "Animals are Beautiful People" (especially when I was a kid watching the docu). Never knew it was staged! Thanx for the info! As you said, it would truly be a scandal nowadays…!

    Definitely makes me think entirely differently about that documentary now. So thanx for shedding light on that "drunken scene"!


  9. Memohotel September 7, 2009 at 2:40 pm #

    Hahahha!! That’s so hilarious. I’ve heard a lot about “drunken” elephants lately, finally an explanation! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Africafreak September 5, 2009 at 4:56 pm #

    Hi Anil! 🙂

    I must admit the first time I saw the video I was a little skeptical about it, although I “kind of” thought to myself it could well be possible!

    It is not until very recently nevertheless that I did a bit of research on the matter, and found out about the truth behind this rather controversial video.



  11. Anil September 5, 2009 at 3:11 pm #

    I’ve seen this video before, never knew it was staged. Definitely not the right thing to do to them.

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