In a remarkable story, an elephant has been taught how to peel bananas with his trunk by his keeper at a wildlife sanctuary in Thailand. This majestic creature has amazed zookeepers everywhere with his newfound skill and it is a testament to the bond between the animals and their caretakers!
It is known that elephants like to eat bananas. But they don’t usually peel them first. But an Asian female elephant named Pang Pha acquired this skill just by observing. She is the elephant that learned to peel bananas.
She first breaks the banana before shaking it and collecting the pulp. Thus it leaves the thick peel behind. Research on the case is published in Current Biology. She learned this unusual behavior by watching her keepers peel the bananas for her. It demonstrates her special cognitive and manipulative abilities.
“We have discovered a very unique behavior,” says Michael Brecht. He works in neuroscience at the Humboldt University in Berlin. The elephant that learned to peel bananas is unique. It is a combination of skill, speed, individuality and a putatively human origin.
She flatly rejects brown bananas. But when it comes to yellow bananas stained brown she eats them after peeling them. The researchers learned from Pha’s caretakers about her unusual talent for peeling bananas. At first, they were confused. Yellow and green bananas were brought to her and she never peeled them.
“We understood that he peeled only yellow and brown bananas,” recalls Brecht. When yellow bananas are offered to a group of elephants, Pha changes his behavior. He eats as many bananas as he can whole and saves the last one for peeling later.
Habits that are transmitted
Researchers suggest that it learned to skin them by watching humans. Previous reports on African elephants suggest that elephants can interpret human gestures. They know how to classify people into ethnic groups. But complex human-derived manipulative behaviors are quite unique.
Elephants have amazing cognitive abilities and impressive manipulative skills. “They have really remarkable trunk dexterity. Their behavior is determined by experience,” says Brecht.
The researchers find it surprising that only Pha has learned to peel bananas. This leads them to wonder whether such habits are normally passed down among elephant families. They are now studying other sophisticated trunk behaviors, such as tool use.