‘Smoking’ elephant baffles wildlife experts

A video of an Asian elephant ingesting charcoal and blowing out ash in Nagarahole National Park has gone viral.  

A pachyderm puffing out smoke? Sounds incredulous? But a video of a wild elephant in Nagarahole National Park, about 90 km from here, seemingly “smoking” has baffled scientists and the video has gone viral on social media sites and shared by international agencies.

The video was shot by scientists and researchers of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), India Program, in April 2016, but has gone viral only now.

A release issued by WCS said this unique video and image was captured by their colleague Vinay Kumar, and it provided “new insights into wild elephant behaviour.” The wild Asian elephant in the video appears to ingest charcoal and blow out ash.

“The video was taken in Nagarahole National Park when our team, comprising Mr. Kumar, Srikanth Rao and three field staff, was involved in a project undertaking long-term monitoring of tiger and prey populations,” said the release.

This is the first known video-documentation of a wild elephant exhibiting such behaviour, and thus has scientists and experts puzzled.

Varun R. Goswami, elephant biologist and senior scientist with WCS India Program, says the elephant may have been trying to ingest wood charcoal, as she appears to be picking up something from the burnt forest floor, blowing away the ash that came along with it in her trunk, and consuming the rest.

The release said the charcoal has well recognised toxin-binding properties and although it may not have much nutritional content, wild animals may be attracted to it for this 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 video has been shared extensively by international agencies and publications such as National Geographic, Fox News, Science Magazine, and is making rounds on digital media portals. It may be viewed on the WCS India YouTube channel.


Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 7:03:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/smoking-elephant-baffles-wildlife-experts/article23358331.ece

Next Story