A hidden camera of the Wildlife Conservation Society in India has spotted a pachyderm elephant hoisting ashen wood chunks into its mouth and then blowing out clouds of white smoke.
Smoking Or Eating?
Vinay Kumar, assistant director of WCS, noticed the elephant's unusual behavior while inspecting camera-trap locations in the Nagarahole National Park, where the conservation institute operates a project that monitors tigers and prey populations in the park.
Nagarahole National Park, also known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park, is a vast wildlife reserve in Karnataka located in Southern India. It is home to tigers, Asian elephants, and several varieties of birds.
"I believe the elephant may have been trying to ingest wood charcoal," says Dr. Varun Goswami, an elephant biologist at the WCS.
The elephant may be eating charcoal because of its natural laxative and toxin counteractive properties.
"Charcoal has toxin-binding properties that may provide medicinal value," Goswami added.
Elephant Conservation In India
India is home to almost 60 percent of Asia's wild elephants and about 20 percent of domesticated elephants. The elephant is a major part of the Indian way of life and culture. The animal is associated with India's cultural and religious heritage.
Southern India is home to more than 17,000 of the country's almost 34,000 wild elephants. The forests of India used to have more than a million elephants, but habitat loss and human-animal conflict led to the dwindling number of elephants.
According to the World Wild Life, the endangered Indian elephant may spend up to 19 hours a day feeding. It can produce an average of 220 pounds of waste per day while wandering over an area that can cover up to 125 square miles.
Elephants feed mainly on grasses, but can also consume large amounts of tree bark, roots, leaves, and small stems. These animals can also eat bananas, rice, and sugarcane. Elephants are always close to a source of fresh water because they need to drink water at least once a day.
The declining population of elephants in India led to the establishment of Project Elephant, a program that aims to preserve elephant habitats and create elephant corridors. Through the project, a total of 25 elephant reserves were put up throughout the elephants' natural range covering 58,000 kilometers.