Wildlife Conservation Society field staff checking on camera traps in Nagarahole National Park in India stumbled upon the usual sight of what looked like an elephant smoking.
In a press release, the WCS described the “smoke-breathing” scene as the elephant picking up ash with its trunk, closing its mouth and blowing it back out in a cloud of smoke.
Vinay Kumar, assistant director with the WCS India Program, captured the video that has “WCS scientists and others scratching their heads.”
“I believe the elephant may have been trying to ingest wood charcoal,” said Dr. Varun Goswami, WCS India scientist and elephant biologist. “She appeared to be picking up pieces from the forest floor, blowing away the ash that came along with it, and consuming the rest.”
Photo is a screen grab
The WCS surmises that the elephant might have been ingesting medicine, explaining, “Charcoal has toxin-binding properties that may provide medicinal value. Charcoal can also serve as a laxative, thereby doubling its utility for animals that consume it after forest fires, lightning strikes, or controlled burns.”
The discovery of the “smoking” elephant came as the WCS field staff visited camera-trap locations as part of a long-term project to study tigers and their prey.
The WCS’s mission is to “save wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.”