Nestled quietly on the banks of the Maetaeng River in the breathtaking Maetaman Valley lies the Mae Taeng Elephant Park, a place dedicated to the protection of the Asian elephant. Many of the elephants at this park, had spent their early years in the illegal logging industry or were brought from the streets, where they were used for begging now some of the lucky ones have became world recognized elephant artists.
Mae Taeng Elephant Park now contains a herd of almost 70 magnificent elephants, 4 of which are elephant artists, providing them with food and vitamins to supplement their diets, a specialized Elephant clinic to care for the sick, as well as a safe environment for the birth and after care of infants. Thanks to the newly opened clinic the herd is expecting some new additions in the very near future, with Mae Bua Kam who gave birth in early February and Pung Bougum and Pung Kewpeuk expecting to give birth in the next few weeks.
Each elephant artist at Mae Taeng eats a mammoth 250 kg of food every single day, from an assortment of grasses, fruits and sugar cane they also drink about 150 litres of water! A fully grown elephant can weigh 5400kg. Food consumption on this scale requires meticulous management from the team at Mae Taeng. Aside from their huge size the Asian Elephant life cycle is actually remarkably similar to humans, they are fully-grown at around 20 years old, can bear young at around 16 and live until around 70 years old.
Originally the elephants were allowed to roam free in the forest in which elephant park is situated, but due to government legislation and the destruction that was caused to the forest a large bamboo fenced enclosure has been erected for the elephants at night. Teenage male elephants, such as Orachai (the original painter), are too boisterous and aggressive and therefore cannot be used for painting during this part of their life, they are instead used for breeding. The male elephants are naturally loners and the herd is led by an alpha-female. Male elephants are known to be temperamental and dangerous when they enter their teenage years, for this reasons Mae Taengs herd is predominantly females, although the males in the herd have their own enclosures accompanied by numerous females and close friends. Ken, the owner joked that Orachai had knocked a previous enclosure down, and indeed a structure similar to Jurassic Park would be needed, to give him enough room to rampage around.
In order to learn to paint, elephants need to be taught at an early age and training takes around 4 months to complete. Initially the elephants are taught how to hold the brush and apply strokes to paper; the elephants then move on to two and three dimensional art, painting trees, flowers, people and elephants and finally the abstract brush strokes that are on our products. Suda and Orachai, who are the superstars of the herd, can even write their names.
From all the talented elephants that call this park their home, only 3 can be recognized as elephant artists. This is due to a number of factors: most notably very few elephants, like humans, have true artistic flair. Each elephant has their own individual mahout they form a special bond that takes years to develop. Initially the mahouts decide if their elephant has the potential and personality required to learn how to paint. Only 9 from the 60+ elephants were put forward for training, of which only 3 showed an amazing talent for art: Suda, Charlie and See Noon.
The Elephant Artists
Elephant Artist Suda
Name: Suda Age: 5 Years Old
This is the original Suda the Elephant artist! No imitations here. Many camps claim to have Suda, with her signature painting of an elephant holding a rose, but Mae Taengs is the original! So stop copying us guys. You can tell her prints due to her unique brush style always slightly angled to the left. She possesses great special awareness and an innate ability to replicate complex pictures.
She is a very peaceful creature, which seems the main personality traits of good elephant artist. She is the superstar of the park, extremely friendly with big bright eyes. She loves washing and bathing in the sun, her biggest fear is dogs.
Elephant Artist Charlie
Name: Charlie Age: 3 years
Charlie the elephant artist is the youngest of our elephant artists and started painting just over a year ago. As one of the babies of the herd she obviously likes to run around and be playful, sometimes however she is known to be a little bit naughty. She loves to draw trees, combining different textures and colours to create an extremely realistic composition. Hopes are high for “little” Charlie that she will one day become as famous as Orachai and Suda. He has already featured in several magazines and his work has been featured in a number of art galleries. She is a frequent painter at Mae Taeng Elephant Camp, she is unquestionably a very talented elephant artist.
Elephant Artist See-Noon
Name: See-Noon Age: 6 years
See Noon’s name translates directly to “soft colour” in Thai, which is very apt considering his artistic talents. See- Noon is the eldest of our current elephant artists and is also the only male. See noon has been painting for 3 years and specialises in painting birds. He is a perfectionist when producing his paintings; his movements are slow and deliberate. See-noon has a peculiar habit of playfully hitting people with his tail when they walk behind him.
For a male See-Noon is a peaceful creature who is highly thought of on the camp, her personality is very different to Orochai’s.
Elephant Artist Orachai
Orachai is the original elephant artist unfortunately he has put the paint brush down for the time being. However we are confident that he will return to the canvas soon. Mae Taeng Elephant Park are hoping they can convince him out of retirement to paint once a year for special occasions.
Due to his age, this young male is very temperamental and doesn’t have the patience or want to paint currently. He still sometimes participates round the camp, and if you are lucky you will catch him playing football, one his favourite past times.
National Elephant Day
Sacred but exploited, the Asian elephant has been worshiped for centuries and is still used today for ceremonial and religious purposes. Not only is it revered for its role within Asian culture and religion, it is also a key biological species in the tropical forests of Asia.
Less than 100 years ago there was an estimated 100,000 elephants in Thailand today there are only around 3,000- most of which are held in captivity. In order to promote the role that elephant played in Thai culture, religion and tradition March 13th was declared “National Thai Elephant Day” in 1968. This Year Mae Taeng Park held an “all you can eat” party for the elephants, giving them their favorite foods and fruits, including sugar cane, fresh sweet corn, pineapple, coconuts and bananas.
Here at Art by Elephants we help support these gorgeous animals, a portion of every sale goes towards their care and well-being of every elephant including the elephant artists.