Tuesday 16 October 2018

Elephant caught 'smoking' on camera leaves scientists baffled

Experts unsure over causes of animal's bizarre behaviour at Indian nature reserve

Tom Barnes

Scientists have been left baffled by a wild elephant caught on camera blowing out plumes of smoke while consuming smouldering lumps of charcoal.

Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) filmed the female elephant exhibiting the unusual behaviour at Nagahrole National Park in India.

In the video, the mammal can been seen picking up lumps of charcoal with its trunk, placing the coal in its mouth, and exhaling a large cloud of smoke.

Scientists have theorised it may have been trying to eat the wood for medicinal reasons.

“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.”

Charcoal has toxin-binding properties, which scientists believe may be of some medicinal value to elephants.

The charred lumps of wood can also serve as a laxative to the pachyderms who are able to consume it in the wild after forest fires and lightning strikes.

Nagahrole National Park in the south east of India is home to threatened species including Asian elephants, Indian bison and tigers.

WCS researchers had been visiting the park as part of a long-term project to study tigers and their prey.

Independent News Service

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