An Apple a Day? Not For Mara

In over 30 years of working with elephants, we have never known an elephant as picky as Mara.

During a recent meal, she began checking her whole apples for medicine. We like to think that we are very clever; however, we are apparently not clever enough to hide an elephant-sized dose of medication in unaltered fruit.

In past attempts to sneak in some medicine, we have hollowed out apples, filled them with medicine, and then sealed them shut with peanut butter. But Mara can tell that those have obviously been doctored. Most elephants are happy with a peanut butter treat and eat the medicine in exchange. We like to think we might outsmart her, but the suspicious Maya figures out our attempts pretty quickly.

Because she had caught on to our tricks, Mara was taking whole apples and biting them open. She would then put the pieces in her trunk like a cradle and use the tip of her trunk to pick through them. Once they passed her stringent inspection, she would eat them. That day, it took her around a minute to eat each apple. We joked that she was probably burning more calories than she was ingesting.

Since Mara didn’t eat much breakfast due to her careful apple inspection, Mateus offered her food about an hour later. Before he went out, he cut buckets of produce into little 4 cm squares (around 1.5 inches) for her. Upon investigating, Mara decided these squares of food were too small to hide medicine, so she ate it all quickly and happily. Of course, eating something well at one meal doesn’t mean she will eat it again at the next meal, but we know that if she ever decides not to eat her tiny cubed fruit, her two friends would be more than happy to assist her.

Photo of Mara eating a watermelon- insides first.


  1. REPLY
    Kenneth Newman says

    That food Mara is holding looks like watermelon, NOT bananas………does GSE plant any fruit trees, etc. on the property. or is
    there a vegetable garden for produce for the elephants consumption? Is that elephant food kitchen finished yet, the one by the barn?

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      the photo was changed. we didn’t plant fruit trees other than banana trees, but there are fruit trees on the property, some planted and some indigenous. we had a vegetable garden last year, but have not had the time to replant this year. not yet. the elephant kitchen is up by the office, at the top of the hill. it is not finished yet. the cooler is fully in, some of the floor tiles and some of the cinderblock walls are up. the roof is finished and the polycarbonate panels are up as well.

  2. REPLY
    Carol says

    Precious girl??

  3. REPLY
    Alice says

    Sweet Mara. She is so smart!

  4. REPLY
    Lynne Russert says

    Too funny! She’s such a clever girl!!??

  5. REPLY
    Debbie Sides says

    She’s so clever bless her. Good to see she’s feeling better.

  6. REPLY
    Sunny says

    I never understood how my dog managed to separeted a quarter of a half centimeter diameter pill from a large ball of cheese and spit it out… Cremoso cheese is difficult to handle even with your hands, it’s very sticky… ? They are really obstinate ?

  7. REPLY
    bo says

    …when elephants still surprise the human sanctuary team with so much experience… you truly know we as humans should never think of animals as no-brainers 😉
    i know the team at the sanctuary NEVER think of animals as no-brainers, but hihi it really is a good example indeed, how smart Mara hihi,
    sounds like many dog owners what Sunny wrote!!!
    been there, experienced that as well with a dog we had, a female, terrier, thought nobody would believe us so never told how she spit out her medication each time, hidden in cheese, meat balls, …
    nothing could surprise her so we had to find other tricks to ‘outsmart’ her,
    glad to read there are several humans who experienced this with their dogs, just to show that yup, animals have a brain and are very capable to think for themselves!!! Love those stories and again, love what Mara showed us all : we should not be underestimated 🙂

  8. REPLY
    JoAnn Merriman Eaton says

    Hahaha. I’m sure it is an ongoing challenge to get Miss Mara’s medicine down, because what works today means she may out smart you tomorrow !!I understand except on a smaller scale… my dog can extract a pill from the inside of a piece of meat spit the pill out , and still eat the meat without spitting it out. ??♥️

  9. REPLY
    John says

    Welcome to “As the Elephant World Turns”.

  10. REPLY
    Nancy Shaw says

    Love what John wrote !!!!! ……still laughing

  11. REPLY
    Carol Anderson says

    John, I love your comment “as the elephant world turns”. Quite unique.

Post a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.