Elephant Art Is Popular
The Lampang Elephant Conservation Center managed by the Forest Industry Organization is under the government Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. The Center's main concerns are to sustainably conserve Thai elephants, to protect and to provide them with veterinary care, to support responsible development of eco-tourism and to take care of auspicious elephants known as "changpuak" or white elephants. In Tourism circles, the Thai Elephant Conservation Center received an award from the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in 1998. The center has many activities in which elephants play a part which visitors can watch such as training elephants to draw and to play musical instruments.
The drawing activity at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center was introduced and later supported by Nancy Abraham, Richard Lair and Alex Meiarmid of a team who developed the Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project in New York USA. Selected elephants have been trained there since 1997 and mahouts are closely involved with this activity. The drawing instruments are paints brushes, paper or cloth. Elephants are able to draw because of their flexible trunks which can clasp a brush that has been dipped into the paint by the mahout. Then, the elephants paint on the paper or cloth using their imagination. The colors are selected by the individual mahout. Each picture that is produced is varied and beautiful. After a while the elephants quickly paint with confidence. The Thai Elephant Conservation Center has many intelligent elephants for example Pharatida, Lookkhang, and Lookkup. Their pictures are very interesting to visitors who are very kind when they see the paintings and donate money to the elephant artist. Visitors are thrilled to accept an elephant painting as a priceless souvenir. Besides paintings being sold at the Center, elephant paintings are shown in exhibitions attracting many visitors at many important hotels in both Bangkok and Chiangmai.
Visitors and all interested persons wanting to see elephant drawings can drive to the Thai Elephant Conservation Center located km. 28-29 Lampang - Chiangmai Rd., Tambon Wiangtan, Ampur Hangchat in Lampang province. Elephant drawings are seen after the show of elephants at work and the parade of the adorable baby elephants. The daily shows can be seen at 10.00 AM and 11.00 AM. On government and other holidays there is an additional show at 1.30 PM. The entrance ticket is only 50 Baht.
It is often said that beauty is in the eye of the beholders as related in a recent newspaper article about elephants in a European zoo painting fabrics. These fabrics were then made into women's fashions. There was one art critic who didn't appreciate the elephant paintings. A five year old girl who must have been scolded a few times about "staying in line" harrumphed and said of the elephants' work, "That's not painting -- that's scribbling".
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