by Michael dEstries
Categories: Animals, Fashion
Tags: , .

lauren bush feed

You know those elephants that spend their free time painting beautiful works of art? If not, allow me to blow your mind by sending you to this video. For those already sufficiently awed by this animal talent, let me next tell you about an organization called The Asian Elephant Art & Conservation Project. This non-profit works with those domesticated artsy elephants to raise funds through donations and the sale of artwork. All of the cash is then used to protect elephant habitat and help save those few still living in the wild.

Anyways, these guys just don’t paint wall pieces — they’re also quite clever at fashion too. This past Friday, Lauren Bush was honored at The Trunk Show —  a one of a kind fashion event that features garments made from eco-friendly fabric and locally produced silk that has been painted on by elephants in Thailand and Indonesia.

Bush was honored by the AEACP for her her work with FEED, the charity she launched to feed school children in Africa. (Check out our video on Lauren’s launch party back in May!) “We want to honor Lauren for the FEED bag and the work she has done on behalf of children and animal rights around the world. The award is a token of our appreciation for the awareness she has raised for these causes”, said David Ferris, Director of AECP.

Host Summer Rayne Oakes presented the award to Lauren. After the event, the clothing was auctioned off with all money raised given to The Asian Elephant Art & Conservation Project. Check out the pics from the event below!

Photo credit: Tricia Viola

About Michael dEstries

Michael has been blogging since 2005 on issues such as sustainability, renewable energy, philanthropy, and healthy living. He regularly contributes to a slew of publications, as well as consulting with companies looking to make an impact using the web and social media. He lives in Ithaca, NY with his family on an apple farm.

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  • JC


    A number of people have sent me this link, amazed that an elephant can do such a thing. I have spent a lot of time in Asia, and I feel compelled to respond.

    First, it is NOT the elephant’s idea to paint an elephant! It is a man’s idea, and the elephant has been “trained” to do it. Training of elephants invariably uses the hook, or Ankus, and often nails, which are thrust into the elephant’s sensitive skin. They have probably done that painting dozens of times. Sorry to say it, but this is just another circus act!

    The first time I saw an elephant painting was 2001, at the Elephant Conservation Center in Thailand. At that time an easel was placed in front of the elephant and the mahout would hand the elephant a paintbrush with a color on it; Then another color and so on. Actually one could distinguish some “styles” from one elephant to another. I bought one for 500 Baht (then $12.00)! A few years passed, and suddenly they were being sold at fancy western auctions, for hundreds, then thousands of dollars. I checked out a website, and wondered How do they get an elephant to paint bouquets of flowers? with leaves and Japanese-style petals? The most recent time I saw it, two years ago, I was up close, standing next to the mahout as the elephant painted a painting . The mahout was constantly moving the elephant’s head, often by the tusk, to make the trunk land exactly where he wanted it on the paper. Sure enough, flowers, stems and leaves miraculously appeared. You’ll notice in this video that you don’t see the mahout, carefully placed the other side from the audience. It’s a bit like a Magician act – one wouldn’t notice anyway, due to being absorbed watching the elephant.

    And so the form has evolved. Paintings make a LOT of money these days. Where does it go? conservation? really?

    Now they have taught them to paint elephants. You’ll notice how careful the elephant is, hesitant, a little shaking, as she places her trunk on the paper. Because it HAS to be right!

    I am not stating categorically that an elephant could not enjoy painting. They ARE incredibly intelligent, and I can imagine they could have fun with it. However, in all cases we see today, in captivity, they have been taught. They live on chains and are usually severely beaten for not obeying a command. There is NO freedom of choice. Once they have learned something, the hook does not always have to be used. However, it’s presence is a constant reminder of former terrifying experiences, when they were forcibly taken away from their mothers and bruatally “trained”.

    I am also not stating categorically that elephants cannot be trained without cruelty. I know that they can. But in Asia, Africa and circuses the general belief is that dominance and power is essential to control such a big animal, so get them when they are young. There generally isn’t the concept that they have feelings, which of course they do, and there’s plenty of research to back that up.

    Painting pretty pictures for our amusement is not what this huge magnificent mammal, an endangered species, should be doing. She should be roaming free, with her mother, playing and foraging for food – in the jungle.

  • JayP

    I am shocked that you would be promoting this org in any way shape or form!!! You must do more research before you post this type of info. By ‘putting your rubber stamp’ on this, you have sentenced these sensitive animals to a life of abuse and lining the pockets of these selfish and greedy people. Of course they will tell you differently….money makes liars out of people. Talk to the people that have been involved and around these ‘artistic’ elephants. Oyyyy I’m spitting mad.

  • Ewa

    I find the negative comments unfortunate. I live with 90 elephants, their ages range from new borns to over 80 years old. The gross generalisations that have been made about abuse and greed are not based on facts. It is sad that people base their opinions on seeing something for 5 minutes and reading propaganda put out by organisations trying to raise money to run their bureaucracies.
    If you don’t believe me, come and see for yourself.(you will need to spend more than 5 minutes observing this) If you really care about elephants, contribute your time to them, don’t condemn something you do not understand, because then you will be directly contributing to the extinction of elephants. If you think you have a better way, then we invite you to join and work together.(funny how nobody ever takes us up on that one!)
    Communications Director

  • Louboutin

    Lauren Bush for the holiday,fashion style