'Smoke-breathing' elephants cloudy exhales baffle scientists

By Ben Hooper
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March 23 (UPI) -- Researchers visiting a wildlife area in India captured video of a bizarre scene: A "smoke-breathing" elephant.

The Wildlife Conservation Society said scientists and colleagues were visiting Nagaharole National Park to check camera-trap locations for a long-term tiger study when they came across the unusual elephant.


Vinay Kumar, assistant director of WCS India, captured video appearing to show the elephant exhaling thick clouds of smoke.

WCS researchers said they have no concrete answers for the strange scene, but experts suggested some possibilities.

"I believe the elephant may have been trying to ingest wood charcoal," said 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."

Experts said charcoal may have medicinal value for elephants, as it has toxin-binding properties and works as a laxative for the animals.

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