(Video) Can Elephants Really Paint?

Elephant painting

The video on the next page, uploaded by ExoticWorldGifts.com (now called GiftsWithACause.com) shows an elephant painting a beautiful image of an elephant holding a flower. People on the scene gasp as the painting unfolds, amazed at her talent as she carefully completes each stroke. The explanation under the video says.

Her mahout talks to her throughout the process as his gentle touch gives her confidence. She focuses on her work and seems to enjoy the approval of the audience and, of course, the sugar cane and banana treats. All of her training has been reward based.

So touched by their horrific backgrounds and loving personalities, ExoticWorldGifts.com now supports, “Starving Elephant Artisans” by selling their paintings so they can continue to have a new life in Thailand…

Some Thai elephant experts believe that the survival of the Asian elephant species will most likely depend on the good treatment of the elephants in well managed privately owned elephant camps. All of us would prefer that all of the elephants be free to be in the wild. For many reasons, that is not possible at this time.

But I am still wondering… can elephants really… really paint? Go to the next page for this amazing video.

This is a multi-page post. You can access page one here.

Elephant Painting

Very impressive! It really looks like this elephant is painting, actually creating something from his or her own mind and soul, totally locked into the creative muse. And the cause that the paintings support, namely the elephants, is totally worthwhile. But is this elephant really “creating” an original painting. Go to the next page to find out.

This is a multi-page post. You can access page one here.

Intrigued by stories, naturalist Desmond Morris set out to find the truth about elephant paintings, I’ve included excerpts from an article he wrote for the Daily Mail.

Elephant painting

Is it true that elephants are artists? Can they really paint pictures of flowers, trees and even other elephants? Are they the only animals on Earth, apart from human beings, that can create pictorial images?

Last summer my friend, the scientist Richard Dawkins, asked me to look at a video clip on the internet, taken in Thailand, that showed a young female elephant called Hong painting a picture of an elephant running along, holding a flower in its trunk. He wanted to know if I thought it was a fake…And it was an elegant image, too, something a human artist would not be ashamed of….

Continued on the next page.

This is a multi-page post. You can access page one here.

elephant painting on easel

I was amazed and puzzled by what I saw and decided that I really must find out more. Back in the Fifties I had myself made a serious study of the artistic abilities of chimpanzees, but they had never achieved anything like this…If elephants could really paint flowers and trees, then they were, of course, in a different league..But I had a nasty feeling there was a catch in it somewhere, so when I was visiting Thailand this year I decided to find out the truth.

…there are…at least six elephant centres in Thailand where painting is done…These centres originally developed because, 20 years ago, logging by elephants was outlawed in Thailand and all the domesticated elephants suddenly found themselves out of work. Their future looked bleak and there was no hope of returning them to the wild.

Then someone had the bright idea of setting up elephant sanctuaries where the animals could be shown to visitors for a small fee. Out of this grew staged performances and, about eight years ago, the painting sessions…So are these endearing mammals truly artistic? The answer, as politicians are fond of saying, is yes and no.

Continued on the next page.

This is a multi-page post. You can access page one here.

elephant with mahout

Let me describe exactly what happens.

,,,with each mark, the mahout tugs at his elephant’s ear.

He nudges it up and down to get the animal to make a vertical line, or pulls it sideways to get a horizontal one. To encourage spots and blobs he tugs the ear forward, towards the canvas. So, very sadly, the design the elephant is making is not hers but his. There is no elephantine invention, no creativity, just slavish copying… each…always produces exactly the same image, time after time, day after day, and week after week…Each elephant works to a set routine, guided by her master…it…is all a trick.

Having said this, what an amazingly clever trick it is! No human hand touches the animal’s trunk. The brain of the elephant has to translate the tiny nudges she feels on her ear into attractive lines and blobs.

And she has to place these marks on the white surface with great precision. This requires considerable intelligence and a muscular sensitivity that is truly extraordinary.

So all is not lost. We can still marvel at the paintings these animals make, even if their skill is to do with muscle control rather than artistic ability.

You can read the entire article at The Daily Mail.
Images: Screen shots

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