Attracting the Whole World’s Attention : The Smoking Elephant of Nagar hole National Park, Karnataka

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Nature and the natural world never cease to amaze us. It is always full of surprises and is a source of constant wonderment. However much we may try, but to know all the mysteries of this diverse natural world is not possible.

Causing sensation throughout the world, the natural world bestowed us with another of its surprises once again. This event, which caught the attention of people across the globe happened in Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka, India. Caught on a camera installed by Vinay Kumar, Assistant Director of Wildlife Conservation Society and his team to capture the movement and other information of tiger and other prey population of the Park this female elephant was seen blowing out smoke through its trunk in a burnt patch of the forest. This unusual and unseen behaviour of the elephant immediately caught the attention of the team and Vinay Kumar released the video on youtube for the whole world to see and wonder upon.

This accidental sighting can be said to be the first of its kind and hence the multiple videos of this event have recorded views of more than two lakh. After watching the tape Mr Kumar consulted Dr Varun Robert Goswami, a colleague and elephant biologist to get a better understanding of the occurrence and this is when things become clear. According to Dr Goswami, many wild the ‘smoking’ elephant was probably trying to ingest wood charcoal, which is something common among wild animals. The smoke that was seen coming out of its trunk was the smoke released from these charcoals and hence the ‘smoking’.

And the elephant was spotted on a burnt patch of the forest, this theory holds to be correct. “Charcoal has well recognised toxin-binding properties, and although it may not have much nutritional content, wild animals may be attracted to it for this 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,” he explained.

So, the ‘smoking’ elephant was nothing but an initiative taken by the elephant to protect itself in its natural habitat. This forces us to think that however much we may try to understand our natural world, we always miss something, which when we encounter never fail to snap us out of our reverie and make us appreciate the world of which we are a part too. This incident of the ‘smoking’ elephant, which turns out to be a very natural phenomenon, will remain a testimony to this fact.

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