Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Video clip shows an elephant painting a picture of an elephant.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, March 2008]
Origins: The above-linked video is "true" in the sense that it represents the real phenomenon of elephants who have learned to paint — with the caveats that "painting" in this sense means the animals outline and color specific drawings they've been taught to replicate (rather than abstractly making free-form portraits of whatever tickles their pachydermic fancies at the moment), they work under the direction of trainers, they don't all exhibit the same level of proficiency, and the quality of their output can be highly variable.
A BBC News article described an exhibition of such paintings at an Edinburgh gallery in 1996:
Pictures which were painted by elephants have gone on display at an Edinburgh gallery.The web site of the Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project explains the background behind elephants' being taught to paint, with the resulting artworks being sold and the monies so raised being used to fund elephant conservation projects. The site includes a video gallery that features several clips of pachyderm artists in action similar to the one linked above, as well as galleries displaying the individual elephants' works. (Based on the similarity of drawings, we'd guess that the elephant shown in the example video is Hong, an eight-year-old female living at the Maetaman Elephant Camp in Thailand.)
They include "self-portraits" by Paya, who is said to be the only elephant to have mastered his own likeness.
Paya is one of six elephants whose keepers have taught them how to hold a paintbrush in their trunks. They drop the brush when they want a new colour.
Mrs Khunapramot, from Newington, said: "Many people cannot believe that an elephant is capable of producing any kind of artwork, never mind a self-portrait.
"But they are very intelligent animals and create the entire paintings with great gusto and concentration within just five or
"They are trained by artists who fine-tune their skills, and they paint in front of an audience in their conservation village, leaving no one in any doubt that they are authentic elephant creations."
Mrs Khunapramot, who set up the Thai Fine Art company after studying the history of art in
Another photo gallery that captures painting pachyderms in action in Thailand can be viewed here.
Last updated: 3 April 2008
This material may not be reproduced without permission.
snopes and the snopes.com logo are registered service marks of snopes.com.