HYDERABAD: The “smoking elephant” video from Nagarhole National park at Karnataka has gone viral and it is perhaps the first video documentation of an animal ingesting charcoal which is generally eaten by animals for its laxative effect.
The animal belongs to the Wild Asian species is around 30-35 years old and was noticed by researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The animal was spotted by Mr Vinay Kumar, assistant director at WCS, India and his colleague Srikanth Rao, who were part of the long term project of studying the tiger and the prey populations. The animal was spotted eating charcoal at a partially burnt patch of moist deciduous forest area.
Mr Vinay Kumar says, “We had nearly 25 camera trap locations and this female elephant was caught on video mode as she drew up what looked like a trunk-full of smoke and let out a puff of smoke, making it seem like she was smoking. I asked my friend Dr Varun R. Goswami who concluded that the animal was trying to eat the charcoal.”
Further introspection of the footage confirmed the fact, as the animal was picking something from the floor and then blowing away the ash with its trunk before consuming the same.
In the WCS public post, they have stated that, “Although charcoal has no medicinal properties, it is often sought by animals as a medicine and it also serves as a laxative, which is what attracts animals towards it after forest fires, lightning strikes and the like.”
Forest officials stated that charcoal had toxin-binding properties as well. Ingesting charcoal combats the adverse effects of toxic substances in the animal’s diet. The unusual way the charcoal was eaten has grabbed the attention of many and has also highlighted the intelligence of the elephant species who knew how to eat the wood without consuming excess ash which would taste bad.