Artistic elephants donate paintings to benefit species

Artistic elephants donate paintings to benefit species

WINTSON, Ore. -- These artists aren't starving, even though they can eat several hundred pounds of food a day.

The elephants at the Wildlife Safari have taken their trunk outside the lines to expand their resumes to include painting to help a non-profit organization dedicated to saving their species.

"Because elephants are as smart as they are," said Katie Alayan, an elephant keeper, "the trainers that work with them are always trying to think of different things that they can do with the elephants to help keep them mentally stimulated, and painting is something it seems the elephants actively enjoy."

For nearly a decade, Tiki, Alice and George have put their trunk into enrichment activities that not only have labeled them season painters but artistic in their own right.

"Alice, she takes the brush and she kind of swoops it around and does a lot of very interesting motions with her brush," Alayan said. "Tiki is very vertical, she's up and down, up and down with her trunk. George is kind of all over the place."

"She really gets into it," said Lauren Lacoque, another elephant keeper. "She's got a good style and she always wants to keep going too. we'll be like 'okay okay!!' And she wants to keep going."

Enrichment activities aren't uncommon to the painting pachyderms, who have the intelligence of a four- or five-year-old human. It's a tough job for the Safari staff just to keep the adventure seekers preoccupied.

"How they're using the paintbrush, how they apply the paint to the canvas, all those different parts really come into play," Alayan said, "and their able to kind of express themselves in a a way that even we do when were doing different kinds of things."

But with artwork proceeds benefiting their protected species, their paint brushes wont be drying out anytime soon.