New York (March 22, 2018) - An elephant captured on video by Vinay Kumar, Assistant Director with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS)-India Program has WCS scientists and others scratching their heads.

WCS field staff, including Mr. Kumar, were visiting camera-trap locations in Nagarahole National Park in India as part of a long-term project to study tigers and their prey.

As they travelled the forest, they came upon an elephant displaying unusual behavior.

On the video, the elephant can be seen picking up ash with its trunk, closing its mouth and blowing it back out in a cloud of smoke.

“I believe the elephant may have been trying to ingest wood charcoal,” said Dr. Varun Goswami, WCS India scientist and elephant biologist. “She appeared to be picking up pieces from the forest floor, blowing away the ash that came along with it, and consuming the rest.”

Charcoal has toxin-binding properties that may provide medicinal value. Charcoal can also serve as a laxative, thereby doubling its utility for animals that consume it after forest fires, lightning strikes, or controlled burns.

The WCS – India Program inspires and nurtures positive attitudes toward nature in people through its scientific and conservation endeavors. Among them is providing important insights into the opportunities and challenges of conserving Asian elephants throughout India and beyond.



WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society)

MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.