The Truth behind the Popular Elephant Painting Shows

The horrible reality on elephant painting abuse, finally uncovered

The Truth behind the Popular Elephant Painting Shows

There has been a growing popularity of elephants painting in front of a live audience on the internet. A lot of people are really impressed and entertained. However, some concerned netizens were appalled by this phenomenon. Why? It is not because they weren’t impressed but because of the mystery behind this entertaining activity.

Elephants are one of the most popular animals that are trained for the sole reason of entertainment. In Thailand, captured elephants are trained to be gentle toward people and to perform certain activities like riding, tricks, variety shows, and as backdrops for selfies. Another growing popular show performed by elephants is canvas painting.

A very popular elephant in Thailand rose to fame because of her incredible talent. Using her trunk and artistic gifts, the gentle giant, Suda, could make a simple but astonishing self-portrait. During a show, Suda is led by her mahout in front of a canvas where she paints. The mahout places a brush soaked with paint at the end of her trunk. From there, the magic begins—Suda starts to paint. Elephant painting is a popular show in Thailand, and elephants like Suda perform them in front of a live audience.

However, even with videos and live performances as proof of the elephant’s artistic genius, people are still doubtful of its authenticity. Questions are circulating all over the internet on this matter.

Can elephants really paint?

Elephants are one of the smartest creatures in the Kingdom Animalia. They have impeccable memories, sharper than that of human beings. Their trainable and smart nature makes it easier for people to teach elephants to do certain actions, like painting. So, yes, elephants can paint. The painting elephants in Thailand were said to be trained by an artist and it took over a month for the gentle giants to learn that skill. But then, even with this information, people are still doubtful. Contrary to what people see as an amusing and incredible talent by an animal, some people see elephant painting as a cruel form of abuse.

Let’s backtrack the process of how elephants paint. An elephant is led by the mahout in front of the canvas. The mahout places a soaking paintbrush at the end of the trunk and the mahout stays beside the elephant, touching the elephant’s ears as if reassuring it. But that is not the case. While the elephant starts painting, the mahout manipulates the elephant on what to paint. How? While the people are entranced with how the elephant handles the paintbrush, the mahout beside at the side is holding a bull hook. Elephants are trained to make lines, curves, and other strokes from a little nudge and pinch from the bull hook. Such a cruel way to train an innocent animal.

Elephant painting does not come naturally to them and they are not doing this of their own volition. Elephants are being hurt to do something that will entertain people. This kind of entertainment is not something animals should suffer from and people should start being aware of this.

At a young age, children should start being aware of the importance of wildlife conservation and the dangers of poaching to the ecosystem. Our world is not made for us humans alone, but we are all interconnected. This valuable lesson is the moral of my book, Tambo: An Elephant Adventure, and copies are available in online bookstores.



Anurag, T. “This elephant has become Famous for her ability to paint but wait until you see her masterpiece!” NTD India, February 2, 2018. Accessed on November 15, 2018.

Marshall, Claire. “Elephant Tourism is ‘Fuelling Cruelty.’” BBC News, July 6, 2017. Accessed on November 15, 2018.

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