Mystery of ‘smoking elephant’ in India

Unusual footage has emerged showing an elephant attempting to ingest pieces of smouldering charcoal.

The animal in question, which in the video can be seen billowing clouds of ash from its mouth, was picked up recently on a camera trap by conservationists in India’s Nagarahole National Park.

“I believe the elephant may have been trying to ingest wood charcoal,” said elephant biologist Varun Goswami of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) India program. “She appeared to be picking up pieces from the forest floor, blowing away the ash that came along with it, and consuming the rest.”

While the behavior may seem unusual, it is not unheard of. Other species, such as colobus monkeys, have been known to eat charcoal, possibly to help counteract toxins in their diet. Exactly why this particular elephant was doing it however remains unclear.

 

Rare video shot by Mr Vinay Kumar, Assistant Director at WCS India, which captures a wild Asian Elephant exhibiting incredibly unusual behaviour – seemingly ingesting charcoal and blowing out the ashes! The video was taken while he, his colleague Mr Srikanth Rao and our field staff were checking in on our installed camera-traps in the park as a part of WCS India’s long term monitoring of tiger and prey populations in Nagarahole National Park, Karnataka.