Here we have an elephant painting beautiful pieces of artwork, from self portraits to simple landscapes. It is said that these amazing animals are trained to express their creativity through painting, and money for the artwork sold to tourists is used for the elephant conservation efforts in Thailand.
Unfortunately, the truth is much more depressing.
Watch an Elephant Painting
If you visit Thailand and watch one of these sessions, you will see large, heavy easels setup in a busy tourist area. Large cards are then placed on the easels and the elephants are directed toward the cards. The mahout then sets a loaded paint brush in the animals trunk. The elephant proceeds to paint and the picture is then sold to an astonished tourist. What most tourist fail to notice is, the mahout is actually guiding the animal by the ear or tusk, as shown from a different angle in this video.
Now watch the truth about an Elephant Painting
Unfortunately elephant painting is a misleading gimmick, and money seems to be the only motivation since some artwork fetch over one thousand dollars. These elephants are forced to perform hour after hour, day after day, week after week.
For centuries elephant training begins by taking a 3 year old baby away from its mother, forcing it into a tiny cage where it is beaten, sleep deprived, and starved until its spirit is broken. This process can take a week or more depending on the individual animal. Once broken, the emotional effects last a lifetime.