Elephant Paints Self-Portrait
Netlore Archive: Viral video appears to show an elephant painting a 'self-portrait' unguided by human hands.
Description: Viral video
Circulating since: March 2008
Status: Authentic / Trained elephant
Contributed by an AOL user, March 31, 2008:
Is this for real or a hoax?
Video of an elephant painting a picture
Contributed by Zoe, April 3, 2008:
Subject: Elephant paints a self portrait (amazing video)
Is this really true?
Analysis: The video is real, but it's important to note that the elephant painting this "self-portrait" -- a male by the name of Paya who resides in the Maesa Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai, Thailand -- has been painstakingly trained to produce this image, and may even be receiving off-camera hand or voice directions from a "mahout," or trainer. As animal expert Vicki Croke explained in a video interview with Newsday Live, "If you put a canvas in Paya's barn and gave him two weeks he would not have painted that elephant. He's been trained to do that."
"Elephant art" has become a popular commodity at zoos and animal compounds in recent years, with some elephant paintings fetching as much as $500. Most of the artworks are best described as "non-representational," however, consisting as they do of random splotches and streaks of color. Sophisticated images such as the one above are less common because they require more training. Another Thai elephant named Hong has produced similar paintings.
For more information, see the Asian Elephant Art & Conservation Project website.
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Sources and further reading:
Elephant Sensation Takes Over YouTube (Video)
NECN Animal Connection, 7 April 2008
When I See an Elephant... Paint?
The Scientist, 1 June 2007
Elephant Art Is Popular
Chiangmai & Chiangrai website
Why Do Elephants Paint?
Salon, 23 March 2000
Last updated: 04/11/08