We’re all talented in ways that others aren’t; some of us are born artists, while some can barely draw anything more complex than a stick man. It seems that would be the case with elephants too. It is said that in every 200 elephants trained to paint, only about four manage to master the skill.
Of course, in the case of elephants, painting is skill they are trained to remember, not an inborn talent. Even with that said, some of the drawings they make are so impressive, we can’t help but wonder if some natural talent is involved!
Animal performances featuring elephants who paint have been around for years, such performances mainly seen in Thailand where several elephant sanctuaries dedicated to the care and training of these large mammals have been set up.
There is always controversy over animal displays as there have been reported cases of abuse while getting them to learn a skill or performance routine. However, most of these elephant sanctuaries in Thailand were set up to rescue elephants who were forsaken after the logging ban (the elephants were previously used for logging in forests) was implemented in 1989. Elephant centers provide a home for these gentle giants who have lost their “jobs” and their ability to survive in the wild. Elephants at these centers are taught to do performances such as painting with a brush in their trunk, and display their amazing skills to visitors for a small fee.
Although it is beyond our knowledge whether these centers are resorting to violence in their training (we hope they aren’t!), one thing we can be sure of is that these elephants are truly good at what they do! It’s simply amazing to watch the largest mammal on land control a tiny paint brush with its trunk and painting with such immense concentration!
▼ Suda from Thailand paints a tree.
▼ Suda again, this time painting an elephant!
▼ Yumeka (in Japan) paints on a ROOTOTE canvas bag in a charity event for the Tohoku Earthquake in 2011.
▼ An elephant painting poppy flowers.
Elephants are highly intelligent animals, so we would have totally believed that some of them have the talent to paint, but some people who have seen such performances have commented that while the elephant was painting, they spotted one of the elephant’s caretakers raising a picture of a flower, seemingly hinting from a distance what to draw next. There are also experts who say that the animal’s keeper “instructs” the giant painter what to draw on the canvas by gently nudging and tugging on its ear, and that the performance demonstrates the gentle giant’s sensory ability, intelligence, and incredible muscle control instead of artistic talent.
▼ Not all animals can be trained to paint in such detail…
Although it’s sad to note that these amazing painters, and creatures no less, are living in elephant sanctuaries because they have lost their ability to survive in the wild, at least the performances they are being taught to do, such as painting, displays their impressive intelligence and skill. Much better than the clownish acts they were made to do in traditional circuses, if you ask me. What’s more, the paintings they make are sometimes auctioned off for charity; that’s two good causes in one! A round of applause for these marvelous painters, please!