Painting elephants

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This shows that importing foreign concepts into Lojban might not be desirable.


By Patricia Chargot, Yak's Corner staffer

Did you know elephants paint?

If you visit a zoo, you might get lucky and see an amazing sight - an elephant painting. But probably not. Very few elephants paint and hardly any have had art shows.

So, in honor of the noble and multi-talented elephant, Yak's Corner got permission to reproduce some elephant paintings. They belong to Don Redfox, the elephant manager at the Toledo Zoo. Redfox probably owns paintings by more elephant artists - 19 - than anyone in the world.

Redfox decided to teach two of Toledo's elephants to paint in 1983, after he saw an elephant from the San Diego Zoo paint on television. Her trainer had taught her to slap paint on a canvas with a huge brush.

"I thought, 'She has an elephant that paints on the floor. I'll train ours to paint on an easel and use an artist's brush,' " said Refox.

He did. So did some other elephant trainers around the country, though some of their animals have since stopped painting.

For example, Ruby, a 23-year-old female at the Phoenix Zoo, stopped painting last year so she could concentrate on mating. Now, she's pregnant and her keepers want her to concentrate on learning how to be a good mother.

Many zoos don't teach their elephants to paint because it's unnatural. It's not something they do in the wild. (Obviously. Where would they get the paints?) But others feel it helps ease the boredom of captivity.

"The more we can give them to do, especially in winter when they're not outside, the better," said Redfox.

"Painting is a trained trick. They do it for us and we give them a reward. They enjoy it, just like throwing a softball, kicking a football or playing a harmonica."