Ask a Scientist: The Elephant Spa

Momo Meerkat writes, “Why do elephants like mud?

Good question, Momo Meerkat! I asked your question to my elephant scientist friend, Amanda. This is what she had to say: “Elephants use mud as a sort of sun block. Large, hairless animals like elephants use mud and dust to protect against sunburn and insect bites. Elephants do not sweat much, so any way they can keep their body cool in the hot air is helpful. That’s also why many elephants enjoy the water!” Other animals–like rhinos and pigs–also follow this skin care routine, which is called mud wallowing. Keep searching for answers, Momo Meerkat!

– Nicole and Amanda, the elephant scientist

If you want to see some more elephants cooling down by rolling around in the mud, check out this video of Tange the elephant!

If you want to watch elephants doing some other cool behaviors, check out this live video from the San Diego Zoo.


Amanda Puitiza is a Master’s student in Hunter College’s Animal Behavior and Conservation program. She is studying the different ways elephants solve problems.

[Main photo provided by Amanda Puitiza.]

If you have any questions about animals for our scientists, you can submit them here.

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