Berlin elephant cow can peel a banana with its trunk
People prefer to eat bananas without the peel, elephants with them. A lady elephant at Zoo Berlin, however, masters a special peeling technique – which she only uses in very specific cases.
Dhe elephant cow Pang Pha in the Zoological Garden Berlin has a very special one Peeling technique for bananas developed: She breaks open the banana with her trunk, shakes the fruit out of the peel and eats it. First author Lena Kaufmann from Humboldt University and three colleagues analyzed the phenomenon and describe it in the journal Current Biology. It seems at elephants to be very rare. According to the team, the zoo’s other four Asian elephants eat the bananas in their skins. According to Kaufmann and colleagues, the six African elephants at Vienna Zoo also never peel their bananas.
According to the observations, whether the elephant cow Pang Pha peels a banana or not also depends on the degree of ripeness of the banana. According to the study, Pang Pha always eats green or green-yellow bananas with their skins on, like other elephants. Sometimes they eat yellow bananas with, sometimes without the skin, yellow-brown and brown bananas mostly without. But she often despises brown bananas entirely. It is particularly curious that the 36-year-old elephant cow changes her behavior in the group. According to the study, Pang Pha hardly ever peels the bananas before eating them when they are fed together – not even if they are yellow-brown. She makes an exception with the last fruit: In 60 percent of the cases, she keeps it to peel and eat it later.
Where did the elephant lady get her special technique from? The research team assumes that Pang Pha copied the peeling process from her human keeper when she was a baby elephant. When she came to Berlin 36 years ago shortly after her birth as a gift from the Thai king, her carer always fed her peeled bananas. He removed the shell right in front of her eyes. According to the researchers, however, the peeling technique cannot be passed on to other animals so easily: Even Anchali, the daughter of the elephant cow, does not master the technique.
Asian elephants originally live in South and Southeast Asia. They live around 40 years in their natural habitat and 60 to 70 in captivity. They spend around 17 to 19 hours a day eating. Their trunk is not only used for breathing and smelling, they can also use it to grab things, eat or communicate.
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