Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Maesa Elephant Camp, the painting elephants
October 31st, 2007
Though I've since learned that there is no kind, non cruel way to break an elephant in order to train it, there is an elephant camp outside of Chiang Mai that has a reputation for treating its trained elephants well, the Maesa Elephant Camp.
Part of the way they are able to care for the elephants is with the help of tourism. The problem is that many working elephants were left without much use when the Thai logging industry was shut down and many elephants were left with owners unable to care for them. One of the biggest ways people help is just buy feeding them, and who doesn't enjoy handing an elephant bananas and sugar cane with its trunking reaching out to accept them?
I followed my driver through the camp to look around. He showed me where the young elephants bath in the river, which was really cute, but what caught my attention even more was where the showered the adult elephants with EM, Effective Microorganisms.
A couple of times a day, there are shows were the elephants do tricks, like playing harmonicas, twirling their trunks in the air, playing soccer, elephant massage, and throwing darts at balloons. Some of it was a little weird, but the part of the show I'd really come to see, and what made the Maesa Elephant camp so popular, are the painting elephants.
They come out, toolboxes in their trunks, and stand in a big circle in front of their isles and set to painting. Some people criticize it for being gimmicky, but I thought it was great! The artist who trains them says they try it with the young elephants and some take to it and others don't. The ones who keep going really seem to enjoy it and have even had the paintings displayed in high-end galleries across Europe and North America. Yes, I can admit to being envious of elephants! Their paintings sell really well and are really beautiful, with an elephant's charm.