Using the trunk to place or throw vegetation or an object onto the top of the head, neck or back. In some instances such "adornment" may be a consequence of foraging, for instance if an elephant submerges in a swamp and comes up under a clump of vegetation, it may end up lodged on its head or back. In other cases, the adornment is clearly purposeful as the elephant is seen to place the object on its body and work to keep it in position with its ears or trunk, and may replace it if it falls off.

References: Poole & Granli 2021. (Full reference list)

This behavior occurs in the following context(s): Ambivalent, Birth, Conflict & Confrontation, Foraging & Comfort Technique, Lone & Object Play, Social Play


Context: Lone and Object-Play (1)

An adult female has dislodged a clump of Sporobolis consimilus or elephant grass and used her trunk to throw it onto her back. Once there she pulls on a stem of grass to get it into the right location on her shoulder blades and then balances it with continual small movements of her ears.

After some time she pulls it to one side and appears to wait for something to happen. It doesn't fall off. She uses her ears again, this time to knock the clump off her head. It falls to the ground and again she grabs the clump by a few stems and throws it onto her back. It lands on one side and she holds it in place with her left ear. She Waits apparently Contemplating. Then she takes a step and releases her ear and the clump falls to the ground. She walks off. (Amboseli, Kenya)


Context: Lone and Object-Play (2)

A juvenile female has come out of the swamp some time ago, yet she still walks around with swamp vegetation on her head. (Amboseli, Kenya)


Context: Lone and Object-Play (3)

A juvenile female approaches our car with a clod of grass on her head. (Amboseli, Kenya)


Context: Birth (1)

Elephant Aware observed a family of about 20 elephants at around noon on December 2017 a few minutes after one of the younger adult females had given birth. The wobbly newborn was surrounded by the excited and very attentive family, while the mother was focused on the afterbirth.

About an hour after the infant was born she began to pick up the placenta with her trunk. She swung it vigorously in the air for at least 20 minutes. At one point she draped it over her head and her tusks and by the end she was covered in blood and dust. Throughout this display she also ate small portions of the placenta until most of it was consumed. Once the elephants had moved on Elephant Aware examined the birth site and found nothing of the placenta remaining. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)