The appeal of naturally occurring alcohol has not yet been investigated because, in the handful of previous studies, animals expressed no interest. Anthropologist Katherine Milton of UC Berkeley surveyed primate researchers, working with 22 species, on whether they had seen animals reach for fermented fruit. All said they had not. Scientists at Israel’s Ben Gurion University of the Negev studying bats reported that the animals shunned foods with elevated alcohol concentrations, despite higher sugar levels. Perhaps this is because, says animal physiologist Berry Pinshow, a co-author of that study, “a drunk bat is a dead bat.”
And the oft-heard tales of elephants getting sloshed off the fermented fruit of marula trees in South Africa’s Kruger National Park? Pure fiction. Physiologist Steve Morris of the University of Bristol in England calculates that, based on elephant size and metabolism, along with the alcohol content in fermenting marulas, an average elephant would have to eat more than 700 individual fruits to get looped .
But pentailed treeshrews—admittedly lightweights—prove that at least some animals enjoy a nightly cocktail.