Elephant paints own self-portrait

You have GOT to be kiddingk moi. Check out this talented schnozzle action.

Michelle B. crazy find…

Comments

  1. How the HECK???

    Wow, I love it! :D

  2. tabbycat917 says:

    wish i could see this here at work

  3. meacu1pa says:

    That’s amazing. Truly.

    That pachyderm is packing a painter’s punch for sure!

  4. No. Way.

    I’m a worse artist than an elephant. :(

  5. MilkyWei says:

    Saw it on BoingBoing and thought about sending it in :D Loved it!

    Specially when everyone was clapping, and phantie there goes “Wait wait!” *paints eye and ears*

    And the tail! It painted over the previous line with such precision!

    And the flower! Amazing!

  6. I’m just dying to know if he’s learned this by rote practice or actually seeing his side profile!

    Either way a very talented and adorable furry elephant.

  7. NutherDeb says:

    That is truly amazing!! I’ve seen elephants that do some er, “modern” art, but never anything like this!! I am in awe!!

  8. MilkyWei says:

    I wonder if they sell those paintings afterwards… All proceedings going towards Elephants conservation programs?

  9. I’m nearly in tears…This is so beautiful. When his trunk was shaking as he gripped the brush and worked to steady his mark, I just about lost it. I mean, he wanted to get it just right! I’m already nuts about elephants, but what a preciously talented creature. This is something else altogether.

  10. that pachyderm paints better than me.

  11. That’s amazing! Look how careful and precise she/he is with the brush! Seems like she’s really thinking about it!

  12. Rachelle, Toronto says:

    This can’t be real!! I’ve seen them paint before, but just the way a toddler would with finger paints – this is something around the level of a 10-yr-old HUMAN! If it is real, and I saw this in person, I think I’d be on the ground having convulsions of shock! LOL

  13. Paunchie says:

    and here psychologists and stuff think that only we humans understand symbolic representation- this is astounding.

  14. I think it’s even beyond a 10 year old level, goodness knows I’m WAY older than 10 and that elephant just put me to shame art-wise! what a beautiful animal.

    that’s the coolest thing I’ve seen in a while!

  15. I saw this and was amazed. Then I decided that it must be a trained behavior. (Still very impressive.) But then nuffer in me wondered what kind of training methods are employed. (I’m trying to convince myself that they’re humane.)

  16. 0_o The… what???

  17. Pearl Ostroff says:

    Ten year old? Heck, this elephant’s work resembles Henri Matisse’s. Especially the flower. Can elephant’s see colour?

    I kept expecting to see a human hand guiding the trunk.

  18. Hanspeter says:

    Here’s the original youtube video (the one posted here was copied on Youtube by someone 2 weeks later): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=He7Ge7Sogrk

    I have no idea if the elephant was trained, faked, cattle proded, or is just plain talented. Just wanted to put the original out there.

  19. Pearl Ostroff says:

    Sorry. …elephants see colour?

  20. woooooow

  21. Hands down, one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen!

  22. Hrmm, I susptect there’s trickery at play. I’d love to see it in person. If it’s real, just wow (even if by rote).

  23. “suspect” even

  24. this made me CRY

  25. Wow, this is so wonderful! I hadn’t paid attention to the title, so the minute he/she started on the second stroke, I was shocked! You can buy the elephants’ work at http://www.exoticworldgifts.com

    Here’s an excerpt from one of the pages selling an elephant’s work:
    “When Thailand cut back on logging, at least 3,000 domesticated elephants were no longer needed for hauling. These wonderful creatures are facing unprecedented survival challenges. Boombin’s amazing art is being sold to help save the demising number of Asian elephants and protect them from people using them for illegal logging or begging for handouts on city streets. Proceeds are used to keep their native habitats as well as for caretaker education, veterinarian care, and food for domesticated elephants.

    Positive behavioral training techniques and non-toxic paints are used. Your painting has an official stamp and comes with Boombin’s picture and bio. Thank you for helping and saving these amazing creatures.”

    Definitely one of the BEST post at CO, in my opinion. :)

  26. For those who are wondering how it’s done, the handler standing by the elephant has a hand behind its ear through which he can direct the elephant where to move the brush. The camera (and are deceived by things likeour attention) is so focused on the end of the trunk, we don’t see that it’s essentially the handler painting through the elephant. Ellies DO understand symbols and can probably recognise the finished image as an elephant, but the whole thing of drawing the farther legs ‘behind’ the nearer legs is something that took humans centuries to figure out; and from an ellie’s point of view, the whole picture should be drawn from a higher viewpoint.

    That said, I am not nuffing and I still think it’s dead cute, not to mention how it shows the incredible precision of the elephant’s trunk and their intelligence of learning how to be guided in this way. I just think it’s a shame that the charity manipulates them like this when elephants really ARE capable of producing wonderful colourful abstracts without ‘help’.

  27. Clare, I thought it might be something like that, or maybe the handler tracing with his hand on the elephant’s body or something.

    That is pretty awesome though.

  28. In response to Clare– I agree entirely. The artistic elements of “perspective” and “depth” are two recognized movements that I think are a bit much to attribute to the elephant. They are obviously intelligent and recognize people, I believe, but my very first reaction to that long second “trunk” stroke was that it had to be faked somehow. Anytime the camera zooms in that closely, suspect a magic trick. I think it’s a shame if the animal was taught to do this or is being guided, even if it’s technically humane. I like the abstracts :)

  29. far from the only painting elephant, much less animal. see also “Why Cats Paint”, ISBN 1580087930

  30. Clare, I agree — I’d much rather see what the elephants can come up with on their own. I’d love to know what’s going on in those minds!

  31. it’s definetly not real… that’s a human arm and they never happen to show the whole elephant doing this. you are all suckers

  32. Ahhh, this video, so close after the “praying chihuaha” made my eyes mist!

    And not to nuff or pick a fight or anything, but, the elephant was trained humanely, the handler “guides” him/her by touching his/her ear and the paintings are sold to finance the survival of these wonderful creatures that would otherwise face abuse and certain death.

    THAT is a shame because? I truly do not understand…

  33. Even if the trainer was touching his ear, pretty amazing, no? I couldn’t paint that if someone were touching MY ear.

  34. Lucia Mendez says:

    Wow I can’t even draw like that, that’s amazing and the flower is really beautiful that elephant better get some major treats for that painting

  35. Definitely still amazing. :) The thing that’s a shame is… ellies can make valuable abstract art ON THEIR OWN, and doing this makes them seem dumber than they are. I was watching a TV program in which ellie abstract art was put in an exhibition, and art critics (who didn’t know it was ellie-made) valued it the same as for human abstracts. XD They could get tons of money for elephant conservation that way, and do in many places :)

  36. “Why Cats Paint” was a hoax. Even the authors admitted that fact a few years after publishing the book.

    As for this video, I watched it a couple days ago and was astonished at how advanced the drawing was. As an animal artist, I know how much anatomy study must be done in order to represent or stylize the animal form with believability. The anatomical structure of the elephant in the drawing is far more advanced than a human child, and even the vast majority of adult humans. The jaw, placement of the eye and ear, the joints in the forelegs, the shape of the abdomen, the size difference of foreleg to hind legs… these are all anatomy points that most humans, even artistic humans, would miss without close observation. If this stylized elephant was created by rote or guided by the mahout, there is definitely an accomplished artist behind it. I can’t even wrap my head around the possibility the elephant created this himself.

    Placement of legs behind each other (perspective) in 2D human art has been done for 30,000 years and is present in the oldest known human paintings – hardly recent artistic advances. The oldest known human paintings cannot even be dated accurately within “hundreds” of years, so there is absolutely no way to make a claim that it took humans hundreds of years to recognize and develop an eye for representing perspective. Some humans, somewhere, perhaps.

  37. Ms. McPantiesInaBunchnuff says:

    Perhaps he was taught “hand over trunk”? :)

  38. ok, even though that may have technically been a human painting…through the elephant…THAT WAS STILL TOTALLY ADORABLE!!!!!!
    (if i could paint like that, i would so be getting an A in art!)

  39. djt, it’s not a human arm. This elephant is famous for painting elephants, and you can see several videos of her doing just that.

  40. wow!
    (picking jaw off the ground…)
    that was freaking cool. his trunk is steadier than my hand.

  41. http://www.elephantart.com/catalog/default.php

    For those who would like to read it all from the elephants trunk rather than human speculation and Nuffing

    The elephant who paints elephants is called PAYA if you go to the link above you can read about them read about the training methods and how the elephants work not only with their trainer but each other. If you click on an elephants name you learn about the individual and see some of their other paintings.

    There are also videos of the elephants painting and when you look at the paintings you can see the different styles of the elephants as they paint.
    By the way if you have never tried to help someone paint by guiding their hand, I have and let me say this. If the elephant didn’t have the artistic ability itself it could not do this.

    anyway if you want to find out about it for yourself go to the link and browse a bit.
    you may find yourself thinking a bit differently about the animals around you.

  42. Elephants paint better flowers than I can. Dammit!

    Elephants are crazily smart, as I found out recently — they have some very interesting death rituals (their observed behavior when they come across one of their dead). Apparently they’ll mourn and bury a “stranger” elephant not even from their group.

    And anyway, like cats, you probably couldn’t make an elephant do what it didn’t want to do. :P

  43. binky-mama says:

    This is the elephant version of those children’s drawing books that teach you to draw cartoon puppies starting with three circles. There is no originality or direct observation involved. I too would have much rather seen this beautiful animal paint what it wanted instead of what it was trained to do! HOWEVER…I am totally blown away by the precision and control of the trunk and brush handling. And anything that helps to support the welfare of these amazing creatures gets a thumbs up from me.

  44. I am sobbing! SOBBING. Can it be real? This is simply amazing.

  45. This elephant is actually Hong:

    “Two years ago, Hong began painting with her mahout, Noi Rakchang, and has steadily developed her skills. After learning how to paint flowers, she moved on to more advanced paintings. She now has two specialties. One is an elephant holding flowers with her trunk, and the other is the Thai flag. An elephant with so much control and dexterity is capable of amazing work. Just for clarification, with these realistic figural works, the elephant is still the only one making the marks on the paper but the paintings are learned series of brushstrokes not Hong painting a still life on her own.”

  46. Elephantiasis says:

    The painter’s hand is inside a long trunk-like tube. Note that the tip of the “trunk” does not really close to grip the brush. Add a few American voices saying “Oh my God!”, “Oh my gawsh!” and “Awesome” and you have a nation of believers. Elephants are actually too intelligent to paint, they do mental astrophysics.

  47. Yubi, they do react to deceased stranger elephants, but what is really astonishing is that they react much more strongly (spend much more time lingering around and handling) the bones of their kin. In other words, they recognize the bones, they remember their deceased kin, and they know that the bones are somehow connected to those deceased kin, and they have strong emotional responses. All that is highly abstract cognitive behavior.

    Such intelligent, beautiful creatures should not be kept in captivity and forced to perform for the purpose of entertaining humans.

  48. I’ve been there and seen it! (American-born Thai girl.)

    The elephants actually ARE doing it, but they are trained to. The paintings are for sale afterwards and I can’t remember how the proceeds are distributed, but there are definitely funds directed toward conservation efforts and care of older pachys.

    There are lots of elephants that can paint, but that makes it no less entertaining to watch.

  49. That’s so awesome! It’s clear that the elephant is trained to do it. Still, whatever the method, the elephant no doubt has skill on its own.

    Very impressive! :)

  50. Blue Ayez says:

    I don’t care if the handler is directing or not. It’s still a better picture than I draw. I think it still shows a modicam of self awareness.

  51. sweetbirdie says:

    Ariel and Eloise…thank god I’m not the only one! I was absolutely sobbing! I thought it might just be me being a big baby. That was beautiful! (and I don’t really care how it was done…it was stunning.)

  52. vision exam says:

    The elephant probably can’t even see the picture that is in front of it. They have poor eyesight and rely on amazing senses of smell, hearing, and touch in their trunk. They are smart creatures, but that doesn’t mean that they have to “see” the same way as humans. Looking for portrait painting as a sign of self awareness is like hoping for an animal to speak English as proof that it can communicate- it’s probably not physically possible and doesn’t disprove the trait.
    Elephants are cool animals, we don’t have to make up stories, just appreciate them for what they are.

  53. This looks like viral marketing to me. I think the video clip is a fraud: a CG trunk in the shots where we see a close-up of the brush on the paper… Digitally produced camera shake and a simulated shadow…

    There’s been a number of frauds during the past few years that show up on YouTube, which turn out to be expensive marketing campaigns… If true, then the question becomes: where does the money really go?

    I’d love for the clip to be real… But from what I know of animal art (incl. gorillas) and my own work as a filmmaker with CG… This looks waaaaay to good to be true.

  54. I don’t think it matters if the mahout is guiding her. The dexterity and intelligence involved is still amazing.

    More amazing than cute, I think. :)

  55. TX Scotia says:

    You guys! Some of you are so skeptical! I remember a story about two female elephants that were reunited with another abused female elephant after THIRTY years apart. They had been in a circus that many years ago and finally, finally been reunited at an animal sanctuary. They called to each other, embraced each other with their trunks, nuzzled each other. Said hello after all those years. It was a beautiful thing. These ARE intelligent creatures and you CAN see from this video how much this lovely elephant cares about the artistry of her/his paintings. What skill!

  56. WOW. That was absolutely captivating and STUNNING! THAT ELEPHANT CAN PAINT BETTER THAN I CAN! I was watching with an open mouth through the entire thing. Just incredible. If I ever take a trip there and get to see them paint, I will definitely buy a painting and frame it at home. Bragging rights! LOL! And such a good conversation piece! So very intelligent and talented.

  57. myhandle says:

    It’s not a self-portrait….it’s a portrait of the OTHER elephant. If you watch the background, a handler walks by carrying another easel, presumably done by the elephant barely in the shot to “our” elephant’s left. That easel holds a painting of flowers. “Our” elephant is doing a portrait of the other elephant, who is painting flowers.

  58. sally-rah says:

    I got choked up too!

  59. wow, that’s just amazing!

  60. I retract 50% of my skepticism.

    The digital watermark says “exoticworldgifts.com”, so I went there and found more alleged elephant paintings. The paintings have watermarks on them that refer to the Maetaman Elephant Camp. I searched for that, and found it’s associated with the Asian Elephant Art & Conservation project (www.elephantart.com). According to that site, “The AEACP is a continuing work of art by conceptual artists, Komar & Melamid.” Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid (komarandmelamid.org) are post-modern artists who look like they’d be capable of pulling off a spectacular hoax…

    There’s every reason to be suspicious, given that it’s two days before April 1, and viralvideochart.com says that this is the #1 viral video spreading on the internet today (3/30).

    However, I did find other videos of elephants painting… Such as here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Td_sT6RnrKk

    …If nothing else, it appears that the painting of an elephant holding a flower is one that the wranglers have trained the elephants to repeat. Understandable — it’s quite a crowd pleaser.

  61. Michelle says:

    Comments range from jaded skepticism to sanguine faith, from romantic anthropomorphism to coldly academic. The video is real, not a hoax or fraud. I’ve seen enough videos of elephants painting now to convince me of that. How it’s done may not be as impressive as at first glance, but to me it absolutely confirms how clever, sensitive, and able these beautiful beings are.

  62. berthaslave says:

    At first, I was thinking “no, no, no, no,” as this video contradicts everything I personally believe about representation/signification being something that only exists in human thought, and I couldn’t imagine a behavioral routine that would result in this. (Please understand that I am a Ph.D. student in theatre studies with a background in film theory/performance studies and behavioral psychology, so I think about stuff like this all the time).

    However, the explanations offered above and elsewhere make sense; elephants are indeed intelligent creatures who can be trained to do a number of physically precise things (witness their amazing circus performances), and if indeed a human is “guiding” the ellie’s trunk by stroking the ear, that makes some sense.

    I do not believe that the elephant “knows” what it is doing, or understands that it is creating a representation of itself. There has only been very limited success in teaching primates human “language” (i.e., Koko the sign language gorilla), and I can’t imagine that such complex (and biologically unnecessary) psychological processes could be “taught” to an animal raised without our concept of signification.

    But somewhere, believe you me, Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida are doing a big ol’ dance while the rest of us try to wrap our minds around this.

    Viva nature.

    Viva elephants.

    Viva the amazing, amazing world of animals and people working together.

    P.S. The trunk is real, the human is clearly switching the paint brushes; you can see from many angles that it is the elephant who is holding the brush and painting. Not sure why skepticism in some people runs so deep so as they deny what is physically present on the video. It’s not CGI, you can tell by the various shadows and the erratic movement of the trunk.

  63. If it made people take notice, applaud, cheer, cry and respect elephants, than I don’t care if someone scratched the ears or nibbled their toes! YAY FOR CONSERVATION!

    That was very cool to see, time well spent, and MAN where my kids happy!

  64. OMG. I want to learn more.

  65. Un-frickin- believable. didn’t read the title closely. Here’s my thought process “aww,how cute, they taught it to paint! oh, he doesn’t realize he’s out of ink. Wait, he’s retracing it. NO WAIT! he’s painting HIMSELF. WTF????? ”
    I believe the VIDEO is real, even if the elephant is trained. And if more people are willing to buy (ie contribute) if it’s trained to paint recognizable objects, what’s the harm?

  66. binky-mama says:

    [runs off to experiment with webcam, gray tube sock, an easel and paint] Dang it I want applause too!

  67. bdwilcox says:

    The best part is that she works for peanuts.

  68. Dudes…interesting the comments about it being sad that the elephants are being used for “human entertainment”.

    My dog loves to play and is both very smart and very agile. He loves showing off what he can do when visitors come around. I don’t make him do it – I don’t need to!

    Why should an elephant be any different? Why shouldn’t they enjoy showing off what they can do when they know it brings pleasure to others?

  69. Didn’t I see an episode of MTV Real World or Road Rules where one of “the Kids” freaks out during the elephant painting challenge because the elephant didn’t feel like painting that day and the nice man standing next to the elephant kept poking it in the armpit with his metal-tipped pointy stick?

    You can catch the “nice man” hanging out back there at about elephant arm-pit level. Wonder if he’s poking today.

  70. sweetbirdie says:

    Ariel and Eloise…thank god I’m not the only one! I was absolutely sobbing! I thought it might just be me being a big baby. That was beautiful! (and I don’t really care how it was done…it was stunning.)

  71. gravyboat says:

    Give me elephant. Elephant will get peanuts. GIVE!

  72. gravyboat says:

    I LOVE YOU ELLIE FONT!!!

  73. Holy crap! redonkulous! Wow, there are so many beautiful AND awesome things about this.

    I started watching with the close-up of the trunk and thought “no way, that’s totally fake” and kept watching until it zoomed out and thought ” Holy @*%$! That really is an elephant!”

    Even if the animal was trained to do it, the fact that the artwork brings money for conservation of a threatened (endangered?) species is a great thing.

    I could easily throw paint on a canvus and call it abstract art. I could not do a self portrait(/portrait of my species) as well as that elephant did.

    What really amazed me most was the final picture. The way the painting elephant, who was probably raised in captivity, painted the elephant to look like it was standing up-right. The intelligence and preciseness. The detail of the flower, which is probably an object the elephant can see better than other objects, such as it’s own face.

    Everything about this was just Uh-maize-ing.

  74. wonderful I was having troulbe getting the viedo to fininsh earlier.
    thats just amazikings…

  75. TX Scotia says:

    The best part is that the painting is on “elephant dung” paper! Cute, huh? Painting from both ends of the artist. The dung is processed and odorless and you can see in some of the pictures at http://www.elephantart.com that it is very textured and looks like handmade paper. Wow!

  76. Wow, that was just… wow… amazing.
    I love how it hesitates to get to that perfect spot to start painting….. just… wow wow wow…..

  77. Hon Glad says:

    Perhaps if I stick a paint brush up my nose, my paintings will improve?

  78. Saying it’s a “shame” that elephants are forced to paint what they’re trained to do instead of “what they want” is even more anthropomorphizing than believing that they are actually painting still lifes.

    Splashing child-like paints on canvas is as much a trained behavior as drawing an elephant holding a flower! ELEPHANTS DON’T PAINT IN THE WILD.

    I think it’s an amazing feat of dexterity, and it’s awesome that they can be trained to paint and that they’re being given an outlet to support themselves in a positive way (rather than logging, begging, or being killed). But I also think it’s silly for people to nuff that the poor elephants aren’t being given opportunity to freely express themselves through art.

  79. I, too, am depressed that Ellie McPainterpants can paint better than me!!!!

    As long as it’s humane, I think it’s a great way to raise money and awareness of the abilities of these amazing creatures!!! (and boy, doesn’t that sound like a quote straight from “stuff white people like”!!)

  80. That literally made my jaw drop and brought tears to my eyes. So beautiful!

  81. Okay, cute and all regardless of whether it is a hoax etc etc etc blah blah blah.

    But seriously, how come no one else has noted how bloody annoying the whole “oh my gosssssh” “oh wow” is?! ARGH!

  82. acelightning says:

    Even if the elephants are “trained” to paint, and directed by a human, it’s still an amazing feat of dexterity. And it must take a fairly high level of intelligence to be able to learn a complex behavior like that. (I, too, am a human who can’t draw as well as that elephant does.)

    And has anybody thought that maybe the elephants believe they’ve trained the humans to reward them for waving a paintbrush around? ;-)

  83. I’ve been to Chaing Mai Thailand and we saw an elephant farm there too. They showed us how the mahouts care for thier elephants, took them to the river to have a bath and get their backs scratched with brooms (what ELSE would you use to scratch an elephants back?) and showed us how they were trained to haul lumber. They also played ‘soccer’, which the elephants got really excited about. I’ve never seen a ball kicked so far in my life. No paintings (this was ’97) but I have no doubt they’d be capable of being trained for this. Elephants are really smart.

  84. My money’s on the trainers. You can train dolphins to jump through hoops. You can train elephants to put lines on a page like an elephant for the tourists.

    Unfortunate, but yeah.

  85. he he itz funnie xx

  86. Whether or not this elephant is being guided, the truth is that elephants are amazingly intelligent, sensitive, and aware creatures. They love one another and are affected by the events in their lives just as we are.

    Watch the documentary “Elephant Rage” and see if you don’t come away with a sense of how amazing (and sensitive) these creatures are– and how much damage we have done them and their habitats. Just seeing the way they mourn over and caress the bones of their dead loved ones should be enough to show you that elephants are capable of a deep and very real love– just as we are. These are creatures that deserve our respect and need our protection.

    Buying these paintings is very expensive, but there are lots of elephant conservation programs out there that take donations of any amount. If you can, please try to donate something towards the conservation of these amazing, sensitive creatures. I donate $50 whenever I have a little extra to spend. It’s easy to donate online, and takes no time at all. Just do a Google search– you’ll find lots of foundations.

    Okay. Done preaching. I’m just passionate about these animals. :)

  87. Am I the only person now wondering if all those cave paintings of mammoths being hunted were actually drawn by mammoths and not man, after all?

  88. Did I just see that?

    *watches again*

    Did I just see that?

    *watches again*

  89. Still, I don’t care if there is someone holding their ear, the fact that they are calm enough and coordinated enough, is a miracle! That was just soooooo amazing…and they were putting pictures next to the ellie so she could see what to draw next…but still…I cant draw THAT good!

  90. That was my first thought, Creepy. o.o

  91. Crying like a baby still. Humans are such pretentous animals. I think this is a wonderful breakthrough for humans to see that other animals do think, feel, and dream. We are not superior beings- look at these amazing creatures!!

  92. Joëlle Taschereau says:

    Un vidéo à voir absolument!!! :o) INCROYABLE!!

    Un éléphant qui pense à tout, jusqu’à la dernière touche!! Génial!

    Et dire que certaines personnes croient que les animaux ne sont pas intelligents et n’ont pas d’émotions ou de personnalité…complètementridicule.

  93. Silent Meow says:

    I hope this elephant isn’t painting for peanuts?

  94. Kimberly says:

    I also do CG work, and I can tell the above posters – THIS IS NOT CG!!!!!!

    Dammit.

    This was beautiful. I highly, highly doubt the trainer was guiding the elephant in any way, just switching out brushes or adding paint.

  95. It’s an amazing video, but let’s not mistake dexterity and training for deliberate and original creation of artwork. The elephant doesn’t know how to create art itself, any more than a horse trained to stomp a certain number of times on command knows how to count.

    I’m not denigrating elephants; they are majestic, beautiful, intelligent animals who deserve better treatment and habitats than they’ve been granted by human beings. But let’s not make “can be trained to do rote imitation of human activities” a litmus test for whether an animal deserves our admiration and protection. They deserve that just for acting like real elephants.

  96. Amaaaaaaaazing. I love elephants. Such intelligent animals.

  97. people crying? what the heck?? This is a trained elephant, people. I am embarrased for some of you. ugh!

    Its really awesome that an elephant can take cues from a trainer to create a design… but its no miracle.
    Reading some of these comments ruined the whole “neatness” of this. I’m just.. bleh. annoyed now.

  98. My first thought…must be a male elephant: men always think they are thinner than they really are.

  99. bdwilcox said: The best part is that she works for peanuts.

    I had to laugh out loud at that! This was truly cool even if they are directed by their handlers.

  100. serorobele says:

    I found this online….
    http://www.elephantartgallery.com/meet/school/teaching-elephants-how-to-paint.php

    Also, I don’t know where this is but it looks a lot like Thailand. I lived there for a year and people in that country treat elephants as well as their own children (or better). The handlers are incredibly gentle and caring towards the animals. A popular movie was made where an elephant was hurt and even though it was only special effects, the Thai people in my town freaked out. For that reason, I’m inclined to believe that whatever way they were trained, it was not cruel or hurtful.

  101. I love the drawing that the elephant did, which was remarkable. I just pray that he was not “beaten” into producing to make money for man. My heart gets heavy to think, that even though we see the beauty, there is usually an underlieing way this man got the elephant to do this, it is not a natural elephant freedom.

  102. devicakes says:

    I went to elephantart.com and searched through the art to find pictures like the one above, and as mentioned in an earlier comment it is not Paya, but is instead a female elephant named Hong. Here is what they had to say about what she did.

    “At six years old, Hong has a very curious nature. She loves to investigate everything and once managed to use her trunk to open the door of a truck. This kind of curiosity made Hong a natural candidate for artistic instruction.

    Two years ago, Hong began painting with her mahout, Noi Rakchang, and has steadily developed her skills. After learning how to paint flowers, she moved on to more advanced paintings. She now has two specialties. One is an elephant holding flowers with her trunk, and the other is the Thai flag. An elephant with so much control and dexterity is capable of amazing work. Just for clarification, with these realistic figural works, the elephant is still the only one making the marks on the paper but the paintings are learned series of brushstrokes not Hong painting a still life on her own.

    We are sure that as Hong continues to investigate her artistic side, her paintings will become even more beautiful.”

  103. devicakes says:

    Dtella posted a link to this before. I did not notice this before I posted the first time, but yes. See for yourself. No harm done, and learned movements rather than someone moving the trunk for them. I don’t think the learned movements give it any less validity since a great deal of human art is based in muscle memory. Right on, elephants!

  104. The elephant drew an elephant but I think you’re wrong to imply that an elephant has a sense of self.

  105. greenighs says:

    They’re pretty good videopgraphers, too.

    http://www.notcot.com/archives/2008/03/tiger_spy_in_th.php

  106. You know what I hate? People who make a point of sucking all the joy and fun out of any little thing in the whole world for the rest of us. Why don’t you shove it and STFU?
    Go Stampy!!!!! <3

  107. Actually, Taylor, elephants are self aware. They can recognize themselves in a mirror. They do not think they’re looking at another elephant the way some other animals do. They actually know it is them in the mirror.

  108. Lux – you don’t think it’s amazing that an elephant can be trained to do this? The elephant was able to retrace his/her light lines with total precision! I still think it’s pretty amazing. My dog would hav eaten the paint and pooped under the easel.

  109. wow!!! He did great! How did they teach him to do that????

  110. As a visual effects artist, I can pretty much tell y’all that’s not a CG trunk – though reading the assertions of such make me grin – but it’s really cool you think we’re that good these days! :)

    I kinda thought she was tracing a carving behind the paper in the wood of the easel. Trained or not, that’s pretty cool!

  111. As someone who spends her days training people to draw, I’m very impressed by Hong :)

    (I bet she was easier to train too…)

  112. greenighs says:

    m, I know, trained or not, I’m impressed. It’s like someone telling a french-speaking dog that his accent is terrible. The dog is still SPEAKING FRENCH! sheeesh!

  113. have to laugh at the people saying that it’s a shame the elephant is ‘trained’! all human children are trained to draw certain objects a certain way, as a system of symbols. artists are trained, too! it would be cool to see this elephant left alone with some paints, and see if she incorporated the trained line drawings with the ‘untrained’ abstract art!
    elephants are so awesome…

  114. that kinda freaked me out….

  115. TX Scotia says:

    Go, AL! Yes, we are all trained! You naysayers are sooo superior. I actually got to see the first time an elephant saw itself in a huge mirror. It was really awesome. She shyly looked sideways and then walked up to the mirror and put her trunk on where her eyes and ears were and then put her trunk on her eyes and ears. She looked up and down her body. Walked away and came back in for a close-up. It had all of us observers crying and holding onto each other.
    The weirdest thing was watching a grackle in my backyard photinias cracking a pecan against a limb of the tree AND using a twig to open the pecan shell so he could get the pecan meat out!

  116. TX Scotia says:

    Sorry AJ, it’s AJ right? Guess my new glasses aren’t as great as I thought.

  117. aww, this is so cute.
    i always knew elephants were really smart and friendly.

  118. “Dudes…interesting the comments about it being sad that the elephants are being used for “human entertainment”.

    My dog loves to play and is both very smart and very agile. He loves showing off what he can do when visitors come around. I don’t make him do it – I don’t need to!

    Why should an elephant be any different? Why shouldn’t they enjoy showing off what they can do when they know it brings pleasure to others?”

    Your dog is a domesticated animal. An Elephant is a very large and wild animal.

    They are not dogs. When used to entertain crowds, they can likely hurt someone or themselves.

    Wild animals belong in the wild, they should not be pets or treated like domesticated animals.

    Having said that, this was an interesting video. I hope the proceeds contribute to the welfare of the people and the animals.

  119. how adorable and heartwarming! :)
    the most hilarious thing about the comments isn’t the people crying or nuffing about the training, but the skeptics.
    “i retract 50% of my skepticism” and “it’s quite a crowd pleaser”….PUHLEEZE. give me a break. do you want a medal or something for your genius discovery? hehe. ooohh, thank you so much sir, we are all ignorant fools blinded by our inability to resist the cuteness…you and your cold, hard rationale PUT US TO SHAAME!
    hehehe. ;)

  120. okay, I’ve never commented before but I really couldn’t resist. I love this post. But, elephants actually DO paint in the wild! They paint/draw into the sand with their trunks.
    Elephant paintings on canvas have been mistaken for human ‘abstracts’ by art critics before.

  121. compy-saur says:

    Such a cool example of dexterity! I’ve read some of the suggestions as to how the elephants do this. Obviously they are to do this. Like everyone else here, I believe that elephants are extremely intelligent and sensitive creatures.

    @ angel: I don’t think it is necessary to call a skeptic’s reasoning cold and hard. The world needs skeptics so that wishful thinking doesn’t run away with itself ;) A lot of people here ARE blinded by cuteness (i.e. those who think it’s really cute to put baby orangs with tigers cubs) and don’t stop to ask if what they are ooh-ing over is right. On the other hand, skeptics shouldn’t make it their responsibility to debunk everything or claim intellectual superiority (whether they deserve it or not) all the time.

    What is important, concerning this video, is that people should do their homework if and when they choose to buy these paintings or donate to these organizations. Why? Because everyone, I think, can agree that elephants shouldn’t be exploited for human gain.

  122. compy-saur says:

    Sorry, one of my sentences got chopped. I meant to say “Obviously they were trained to do this.”

  123. April Fool

  124. Doodzorz says:

    Pppth, this is nothing. I’ve seen my dog eat his own poop AND barf it back up without ANY training whatsoever. Now THAT’S nature in all her majesty.

    [Uhhhmmm... thanks for sharing... - Ed.]

  125. siobhan says:

    i love that elephant!!!!!!! it’s so adorable!!!!!!!!!!!

  126. All human artists have training and practice. Even if the elephant was “trained” in some way, it still doesn’t detract from its ability to produce such a drawing. The ability to create an abstraction is far more amazing than the drawing skill itself. There would be no way to really train a creature to do that unless it could mentally grasp the abstraction aspect. This is clearly for real. Some people have said that the close-up is a person wearing a trunk puppet – but no human arm and hand can bend in those type of curves. Utterly amazing.

  127. No! NOOOOO, Berthaslave! Do you realize what you have done?!? You have invoked the name of Derrida on a website for cute animals.
    FOR SHAME.
    Just kidding.
    Mostly.

  128. “I do not believe that the elephant “knows” what it is doing, or understands that it is creating a representation of itself. There has only been very limited success in teaching primates human “language” (i.e., Koko the sign language gorilla…”

    Berthaslave – I’m glad you mentioned Koko. Ever since I saw a documentary on Koko, and a similarly themed story on dolphins, I’ve found it interesting that humans can train other creatures (i.e. gorillas, chimps, dolphins, etc) to communicate with us using language we understand (sign language/behavioural signs/sounds), but I have never seen a story in which a human has been able to communicate in “gorilla” or “dolphin.”

  129. Mary (the first) says:

    I just love this. I think that’s all I can say.

  130. Umm, do we need to specify that he painted the “self portrait” himself? hehehe ;)

  131. booshkitty says:

    I agree with angel… just enjoy it! I’d love to own a piece of elephant art, I’ve always liked them and even painted one in an art exam!
    I personally think that the concept is sweet and if your heart was warmed by the video then trivial differences about whether it is genuine enough is irrelevant.

    I’m going to get my hamster some crayons…

  132. So much has has been said about this vid, but I just wanted to comment that I was skeptical when I watched this too – but even more entertained by the messageboard after it. For better or for worse, humans interact with animals and in many cases control their livelihoods. I think we would all like to believe that this is a wonderful way for humans to control an animal’s life, and I hope for the elly’s sakes that the humans that they interact with are kind and gentle with them.

    But is it soooo far off the mark to think that we’re actually doing a good thing by trying to teach our methods of communication to animals? We teach them to understand the things that we want them to, so why not try to teach them the means to make us understand what they want us to? I don’t think that we’re necessarily anthropomorphizing elephants (or chimps, or dogs) – because they all communicate anyway. As reasoning beings, we have the ability to bridge that communication gap. I like AJ’s point, we teach human children to communicate as soon as possible so that they can inform us of their needs – this is as much for survival as anything else. And as for the wild vs. domesticated issue, well, elephants are wild animals – but there are circumstances where even wild animals can be taught to live in a domestic setting because it allows them to LIVE. Case in point, the industrial work elephants being retrained to do art – they are not being made into pets like wild squirrels “just because”, they are being put to work in a different, more accomodating application.

    Thanks for posting this video – I would love to go witness this for myself :-)

  133. I’m still so hooked on this video! :) I was looking at the elephantart site and take a look at what Duanpen’s pointilism paintings – http://www.elephantart.com/catalog/default.php?cPath=39

    So amazing.

  134. Robert Wilson says:

    Was that near Lampang? I lived in Lampang for 3 years. I went to the elephant park a few times.

  135. Now, let’s darken that line there, and add a little shadow to the foreground.

    Would you like a nice, happy flower? Let’s put one here, and add some leaves.

    That’s nice.

  136. And … we… hunt them ?

  137. I officially have a new hero !

  138. OK – as an artist and elephant lover, I am thoroughly impressed with the pachyderm’s steadiness of trunk! :D

    Very nice. Who cares if elephants don’t actually visualise the way we do and that this guy is being guided by the mahout? It’s for a good cause, therefore it should be lauded.

    Oh, and SQUEEEEEEEEEE!!!

  139. I used to work with elephants that painted at Zoo Atlanta- Dottie, Tara and Kelly and they do actually paint. It’s really not that big of a deal. The trainer dips the paint in the brush and puts it in the trunk, then when the elephant hits the canvas with it. It is positively reinforced with a treat. The elephants at Zoo Atlanta don’t paint anything like this. They are given free reign to paint whatever they’d like which is mostly just lines and blobs of color, but they are just doing it to get the treat, not because they are “artists.” It’s just like any sort of operant conditioning. No one that I’ve worked with has gone anywhere near as far as to train an elephant to paint specific strokes, but I imagine that with a lot of time and patience, it would be possible.

    Also, just because elephants don’t really have much artistic ability, doesn’t mean that they aren’t incredible and valuable. It’s very closed mined of us to give them higher value because they have traits that we, as humans, can relate to. They have their own methods of expression that are far beyond our understanding and they should be valued for that, not because they can learn to conform to our standards of “intelligence.”

    And one more thing… I’m not a nuffer. I’m all for anything to raise awareness about conservation efforts. Just thought that I’d shed some light since this is something I know a good bit about.

  140. Kellephant says:

    Yet another wonderful example of humans taking beautiful creatures out of their habitat and deciding what is ‘best’ for them to do. This video made me cry and not in a good way. For every lucky elephant that is NOT abused into performing, others are prompted to create works of art while being struck with metal pipes or otherwise tormented.

    This elephant should not be painting. It should be out, in the sunshine, free from handlers and away from the expectation of repeating trained behaviors. This is NOT animal conservation. This is animal exploitation.

  141. I hope they don’t neglect and beat the elephants just so they can learn how to draw.

  142. Try to see the best in things, peeps. Please. For me.

  143. Buy this CD! Its elemaphants playing musical istruments. All money raised goes to conservation efforts.

    http://www.amazon.com/Elephonic-Rhapsodies-David-Soldier/dp/B00067Z2TQ

  144. Totalee Puppy says:

    Why am I reminded of little chef pulling on big
    chef’s hair to make up the
    perfect salad nis-was? Hey, teamwork rules!!
    Congrats to a mega-talent
    pack-a-derm! It’s inspir-
    dacious! I hope you dance,
    dude…

  145. Laura32 says:

    Wow that’s amazing.

  146. becky b. says:

    ha ha thats so cool im going to put that on my Dittytalk

  147. This is the type of stuff that PETA should use for their ad campaigns, instead of naked woman. As in, “see, look, intelligent, now don’t you feel bad for killing them for no good reason?”

  148. Also, I read most of the comments, I don’t know if anyone linked to this article on wikipedia about elephant intelligence: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elephant_intelligence

  149. kittenkissies says:

    I can do that with my penis.

  150. Fantastic! Thanks for posting this. I am really impressed with the precision, so cute. The only thing that bothers me about this video is that the piece of paper is too narrow. Get this elephartist a bigger sheet of paper so he can really express himself!

  151. I know it’s probably too late to comment and nobody will read this, but what’s with everyone saying that elephants aren’t domestic animals? Haven’t they been domesticated for centuries? While my sister was living in India she would send us pictures of elephants in the local parades and dressed up for religious occasions. Maybe PETA would disapprove of pet elephants even when they’re well-treated, but PETA are crazy in my opinion! They even think dogs are better off dead than as pets, thus their recent “better dead than a slave” campaign where they actually adopted perfectly healthy animals from shelters just to euthanize them! Thus saving them from the horrors of having to live with a loving human family. Maybe when all humans live as well as pets we can start worrying about how well our pets live. I certainly never thought of kids learning to paint in preschool as being abused, and I don’t know why people are assuming that pain would be involved.

  152. Monique’s assumptions about elephants in captivity reveals her ignorance and lack of research about elephants in captivity. Domesticating wild elephants involves torture (trapping them in pits, chaining them by all four legs to trees, beating them, and depriving them of food and water until their spirits are broken. Then the kindness begins…food, water, release from the chains. This is the tradition in India and Thailand. The elephant pictured in this video is a baby, probably not more than two-four years old. I don’t know where this particular facility is, but it may be one that tries to protect already captive elephants from further abuse and has the elephants paint to raise money. If you want to know how elephants are captured for the tourist market, logging, and other human uses (like zoos and circuses), visit http://www.elephants.com, http://www.pawsweb.org/ and the elephant nature park in Thailand. In addition, comparing an elephant to a dog or a cat is just more stupidity. Ugh. If only there were fewer dumbasses like Monique in the world and more people willing to actually research.

  153. I love elephants but this video felt very wrong and made me sad…..and then I read all the comments and they made me sadder.

  154. I agree with Lux – seriously, guys, crying? I’m embarrassed for you. I bet you call funny stories “gems” and hang cliches on your walls. The elephant was painting to get money from dumb tourists – the sort of people who stand around and squawk “OH MY GAAASH.” You know – you.

  155. mean comments make me CRY.

  156. Alison says:

    This is my Dad’s video, that’s him recording it and saying “Oh my gosh!”… it’s all legit.
    A huge amount of the proceeds go directly back to the elephant camps to ensure their well being.
    The elephants do this all on their own and there are no lines drawn or anything prior to them painting.
    They are truly amazing!

  157. A different angle reveals the truth:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNODzXoJuJM&feature=related

    The elephants are simply tracing a pencil image, or one on a paper underneath.

    It’s still amazing dexterity and ability, but it’s not an elephant creating an original work of art.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 13,358 other followers