'Smoking' elephant baffles wildlife experts

The elephant was eating charcoal and blowing out the ash Credit: YouTube/Wildlife Conservation Society India

A "smoking" elephant has left wildlife experts baffled after it was discovered in an Indian national park.

Assistant Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) India, Vinay Kumar, and a colleague were checking camera-traps in Nagarahole National Park, in Karnataka state in southern India, for footage of tigers, when the came face-to-face with the puffing female.

It "almost appeared as though the elephant was smoking," Mr Kumar recalled.

Stumped as to what the animal was doing, he consulted an elephant biologist who believed that the elephant was eating wood charcoal and blowing out the ash.

Dr Varun R Goswami explained that animals often eat charcoal as despite it not having much nutritional content, it has toxin-binding properties, meaning the wild Asian elephant may have been consuming it for its medicinal value.

Charcoal also has a laxative effect, making it doubly useful for the potentially bound-up mammal, Dr Goswami said.

Despite Mr Kumar spotting the elephant in 2016, he only recently posted the footage online after realising its significance.