EleFact Friday: To Peel or Not to Peel?

You may have seen mention of a study recently about an elephant’s ability to peel bananas. Our very own Mara was mentioned in the article with a link to a video of her doing the same, as an example of intellect and dexterity. For today’s EleFACT, we want to share a bit more about this skill that seems to come naturally to elephants. 

A few weeks ago, we talked about elephants’ ability to use “tools,” and banana peeling may fall into a similar category. In the study we are referencing, the elephant subject initially only seemed to be interested in bananas of a certain color; a behavior that perplexed researchers. It was also noticed that despite other elephants watching the bananas being peeled, they themselves did not begin or pick up on that particular technique. Eventually, researchers determined that it could be possible that the peeling was motivated by a nutritional or taste preference, which makes sense: even humans seem to put a little extra effort into things when our favorite treats are involved. 

When Mara arrived at the sanctuary and started peeling bananas, it was believed that she initially began the behavior out of boredom or lack of stimulation while she was in captivity. Although this is not something she does often any longer, it is certainly a fascinating example of elephant behavior. The motor skills that it requires emphasizes the neurological makeup of the elephant head as a whole. The elephant’s facial nerves are the powerhouse behind the trunk, and paired with the two “fingers” at the tip, results in some spectacular abilities. From the tiniest blade of grass to the large melons that we see them snack on here at sanctuary, it seems that the trunk has the dexterity to handle it all. 

To read more about the study mentioned, visit here.


  1. REPLY
    Carol says

    More elephant perfection and awesome abilities!🫶🏻🐘

  2. REPLY
    Sheila says

    Oh dear😍🐘 Mara. Likely did peel her 🍌 because she was so bored . I’ll bet she doesn’t peel them at sanctuary because she’s eating alongside more hungry ladies.

  3. REPLY
    Susy says

    Gracias por tan completa explicación. Una reina Mara. Cómo todos los elefantes..muy inteligente.

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