Earlier this week, scientists were baffled when they caught an elephant on camera blowing out a lot of smoke from its mouth. It seems the elephant was eating hot lumps of coal, which produced the smoke. Not only do they not know why the elephant is doing this, but they were concerned for the health and overall well being of the large pachyderm.
Scientists and researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society, or WCS, filmed a female elephant showing unusual behavior at the Nagahrole National Park in India. The video shows the animal picking up burning lumps of coal with its trunk and placing the coal in its mouth, causing large amounts of smoke to exit its mouth. Some of the researchers have theorized that it may have been trying to eat the wood as medicine.
“I believe the elephant may have been trying to ingest wood charcoal,” said Dr. Varun Goswami, India scientist and elephant biologist for WCS. “She appeared to be picking up pieces from the forest floor, blowing away the ash that came along with it, and consuming the rest.”
While it is unusual to be consuming coals, there have been cases of elephants eating them in the wild to serve as a laxative. Charcoal has toxin-binding properties, which may have some medicinal value to the elephants. But this is the first case of an elephant caught eating a red hot coal. Nagahrole National Park in India hosts several endangered and threatened species including Asian elephants, the Indian bison and tigers.