Elephant shocks researchers by teaching itself to peel bananas (video)

Elephants usually eat bananas whole but that's far too gauche for Pang Pha, an Asian elephant at the Berlin Zoo. She taught herself to peel bananas before eating them, most likely by watching her caretakers do the same. Pang Pha reserves this for yellow bananas with brown spots. Her talent has surprised animal behaviorists to the point that researchers from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin published a scientific paper about it. From Cell:

"We discovered a very unique behavior," said Michael Brecht of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin's Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience. "What makes Pang Pha's banana peeling so unique is a combination of factors—skillfulness, speed, individuality, and the putatively human origin—rather than a single behavioral element."[…]

When yellow-brown bananas are offered to a group of elephants, Pha changes her behavior, they report. She eats as many bananas as she can whole and then saves the last one to peel later.

Banana-peeling appears to be rare in elephants as far as anyone knows, and none of the other Berlin elephants engage in peeling. It's not clear why Pha peels them. The researchers note, however, that she was hand raised by human caretakers in the Berlin Zoo. They never taught her to peel bananas, but they did feed her peeled bananas.

image: screenshot/CURRENT BIOLOGY/KAUFMANN ET AL./Science X (YouTube)