Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Artistic Elephants

Yesterday at my Rotary Club meeting, Glenn, one of the club members, held a briefing about his recent trip to Thailand.

The highlight of Glenn's presentation, which gripped my imagination, was not so much the industrial water filter donation that a Rotary Club in California gave to a corresponding Rotary Club in Thailand or the English language classes Glenn conducted for eager school children.

Glenn showed paintings made by elephants. That's right -- elephants!

I  was astounded.  The paintings looked like they were made by man; not an animal.

And then I found out that an elephant's trainer has to provide a lot of motivation before the pachyderm-artist will agree to take on the brush.

First, the elephant is fed all the peanuts and bananas it can eat. Then the trainer and his ward play Hopscotch or sometimes Hide-and-Seek. The elephant wins, of course.  More peanuts and bananas for the animal.

Naturally after all that food, the elephant has to have its private moment. The trainer is an expert at being able to tell by the low and long saxophone-like sound the animal emits accompanied by such an overwhelming odor the trainer has gotten so used to he no longer has to pull his shirt up to cover his nose.

The trainer, after the animal has relieved itself, proceeds to shove  a paintbrush at the elephant's trunk.  Unfortunately the elephant has bad-hair days and is not always cooperative. When that happens, the trainer tells the elephant:  "You better be nice or I'll send you to Washington DC and you'll be sequestered."

Hearing that, the elephant  quickly grabs the brush and starts painting.

Photo by Liugi Burks

Here are links to elephants painting in Thailand:

- Ariel Murphy


  1. Great story - I have seen the video before, but I liked the scientific link as well, explaining the "trick". I have always known about the tactile sensitivity of an elephant's trunk and ears from anatomy classes, and the story scientifically relates to experiments by others, i.e. Pavlov. It may be interesting to find out some day that Dolphins can do underwater paintings :-) Thanks for this one Ariel Murphy!