Was elephant caught smoking in a forest in India?

Did you ever see the little elephant video "smoking"? The images are giving the talk and even scientists are scratching their heads at the peculiar scene. But what does she show? Before we present the most powerful theory so far, watch the infamous clip below:

In fact, the elephant was not caught "smoking" now ! The scene was recorded in April 2016 by scientist Vinay Kumar during a visit to Nagarhole National Park, a forest in southern India. The researcher is part of an environmental advocacy organization called the Wildlife Conservation Society, and had left a handful of cameras on site to monitor tigers traveling through the park.


The elephant scene was recorded when Vinay went with his team to check the equipment - and the scientist only released the images now because he thought they showed nothing too much. Evidently, the pachyderm (female) is not smoking, but collecting ashes from the soil, bringing them to the mouth with the trunk and blowing the dust. And the reason she's doing this is that it's been puzzling scientists around the world, as this behavior had never been observed in a wild elephant.

Elephant letting out smoke

And we are misjudging the elephant! (YouTube / Guardian News)

No one knows the exact reason, but the theory that has been gaining momentum is that the pachyderm was trying to consume charcoal fragments lying in the soil and blowing off the excess ash. Interestingly, other teams of scientists have documented other charcoal-eating animals - such as Procolobus kirkii monkeys, native to the Zanzibar Archipelago - to counteract the effect of toxic substances accidentally consumed with their food.

Studies have shown that charcoal not only functions as a laxative, but also binds to toxins in the body and helps eliminate them, so it has medicinal properties for animals. So one possibility is that the elephant was just trying to combat the malaise.