Have you ever tried to find a painting of an elephant online?
Search engines don’t always give you what you think they will…. Try searching for “elephant artist” – would you expect a list of artists who paint elephants?
This search term is just as likely to find artists who happen to be elephants. You will see numerous photos and videos of elephants with a paintbrush in their mouths. Tourists buy their abstract paintings almost before the paint dries. In Thailand, you can visit an art gallery that only sells paintings by elephants – they use the tagline “Help Support these Endangered Elephants.”
There may be an obscure study somewhere that shows an elephant drawing in the mud with a stick, but there can be no doubt that elephants do not routinely find paint, brushes and easels in their natural habitat.
Reports of the cruelty inflicted on elephants to get them to perform these painting tricks can readily be found online. I won’t give links here as the photographs and descriptions are deeply disturbing. Tourists are being misled into supporting these cruel practices in the name of conservation.
If you are interested in wildlife conservation projects, consider supporting the International Fund for Animal Welfare instead. They are involved in some great initiatives to help elephants, including anti-poaching projects. They also have a much more constructive attitude to art and elephants. For instance, in 2017 they combined a children’s art contest and education about elephants.
If you’re looking for elephant paintings online, try some alternative searches e.g. paintings of elephants, acrylic elephant paintings, elephant wall art etc.