Video
"Smoke-Breathing" Elephant Raises Questions

March 23, 2018

Why does this elephant appear to be blowing out a cloud of smoke? WCS scientists are scratching their heads.

The video was captured by Vinay Kumar of WCS India. He and some colleagues were visiting camera traps that had been set up to study tigers and their prey in Nagarahole National Park when they stumbled on the elephant.

“I believe the elephant may have been trying to ingest wood charcoal,” said Dr. Varun Goswami, an elephant biologist with WCS India. “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 that may provide medicinal value. It can also serve as a laxative, thereby doubling its utility for animals that consume it after forest fires, lightning strikes, or controlled burns.

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