While attending to his duties within the Nagarahole National Park in Karnataka, WCS India Assistant Director Vinay Kumar captured fascinating footage of a beautiful female elephant who appeared to be enjoying a peaceful cigarette break, exhaling plumes of billowy smoke from her mouth. In actuality, the magnificent pachyderm was consuming burnt wood charcoal and then blowing the ash out of her system. There could be a number of reason why she was eating charcoal, but more than likely it was for its medicinal value.
What we saw that day almost appeared as though the elephant was smoking – she would draw up a trunk full of ash close to her mouth and blow it out in a puff of smoke! I quizzed my colleague and elephant biologist, Dr. Varun R. Goswami, on what was going on. In all likelihood, he concluded, the elephant was trying to eat wood charcoal. That made sense as the elephant appeared to be picking up something from the burnt forest floor, blowing away the ash that came along with it in her trunk, and consuming the rest.