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Elephant Impressionists

The Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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Elephants as art is not a new concept. In 2002, Washington, DC hosted an exhibit called “Party Animals.” It consisted of 100 elephant and 100 donkey sculptures (the symbolism needs no explanation) that were decorated by local artists and displayed around the capital.

I took a safari through the city one day to find as many as I could, but my journey lasted much longer than the exhibit. For years after the animals had been auctioned off, I would stumble across ones I hadn’t seen before. They would sneak up on you—a bison camouflaged in a front yard or a butterfly elephant fluttering by a neighbor’s pool.

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The “Media Circus” elephant read the fine print.

But those crafty creatures have turned the tables and reclaimed art for themselves. Though large and lumbering, the oversized mammals are quite talented—they perform delicate dances in circuses and, thanks to Dave Sulzer, can serenade you, too. So it should come as no surprise that elephants can also master other artistic endeavors.

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Party animal Ging Gaow painted this work of art.

Most of Thailand’s domesticated elephants once had jobs in the timber industry, but new regulations and deforestation have left these animals adrift without a log. The Asian Elephant Art & Conservation Project decided to ensure the elephants’ survival by teaching them a new vocation—painting. The mammals’ art is sold to help the Asian elephant conservation effort. According to The National Zoo , an elephant trunk has over 40,000 muscles—more than all the muscles in a human body. That’s more than enough power to wield a paintbrush. Take a look!

So do elephants enjoy all of this creativity? According to Dave, they do. In fact, they might be the biggest “party animals” of all.