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Simple Explanation Behind the ‘Smoking’ Elephant Video That Stumped Scientists

The puzzling image of a wild elephant seemingly enjoying a quiet smoke in a video has gone viral.

PTI

Updated:March 26, 2018, 11:25 PM IST
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Simple Explanation Behind the ‘Smoking’ Elephant Video That Stumped Scientists
The elephant was caught on camera while blowing out plumes of smoke at Nagarhole National Park in Karnataka.
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New Delhi: The puzzling image of a wild elephant seemingly enjoying a quiet smoke in a video that has gone viral may have a simple explanation for its odd behaviour. The jumbo was possibly ingesting charcoal and blowing the ash out, the group behind the clip said on Monday.

The video, captured by an assistant director at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), India Program, Vinay Kumar, provides new insights into the behaviour of wild elephants, WCS said.

Shot in the Nagarhole National Park in Karnataka in April 2016 when a WCS India Program team was involved in a project monitoring tiger and prey, the video has been shared on social media sites and the elephant's behaviour debated at length in recent days.

"Our colleague, Vinay Kumar, captured a video of a wild Asian elephant seemingly smoking', as it appears to ingest charcoal and blows out the ashes," a statement issued by the body claimed.

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



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

Charcoal has well recognised toxin-binding properties which attract wild animals, the statement added.

It can also serve as a laxative, thereby doubling its utility for animals that consume it after forest fires, lightning strikes or controlled burns, it said.

Kumar told PTI that though he felt there was something unique about the elephant and the smoke when he was shooting the video, he forgot about the episode later.

Recently while checking his records, he stumbled on to the video again. "I discussed it with Goswami and it was then decided that we would release it," he said. The statement said the video has been shared extensively by international agencies and publications.

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