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Surapa is painting.

Artistic Elephants

Elephants in the wild are apparently too distracted to get serious about art. It is only while in captivity in a zoo or tourist attraction that the creative juices start to flow. Thailand is home to an elephant art academy, and several conservancies promote painting as a healthy pasttime.

In the United States:

Anchorage, Alaska: Annabelle the painting elephant was the star attraction of the Alaska Zoo before she died in 1997. She was a baby from India when won in a contest by a local grocer, and then donated as the zoo's first animal in 1964.

Phoenix, Arizona: The Phoenix Zoo helped Ruby make the leap from drawing to painting after they noticed her scrawling designs in the ground with a stick. Her paintings were sold for years to raise money for the Zoo. She died in 1998 from complications after an unsuccessful childbirth.

Quitman, Arkansas: At Riddle's Elephant Breeding Farm and Wildlife Refuge, elephant art can be purchased at the once-monthly open houses at the ranch or at a gallery on Kavanaugh Boulevard in Little Rock.

Buffalo, New York: Surapa, an Indian elephant at the Buffalo Zoo, is known for her abstract work.

Toledo, Ohio: The master elephant artist Renee received formal art training at the Toledo Zoo in 1995. One of Renee's swirling compositions has been reproduced on a t-shirt for visitors who "sponsor" an elephant...

Knoxville, Tennessee: At the Knoxville Zoo, African elephant Mamie has been painting for many years. The other elephants at the zoo, Tonka, Ellie, and Jana, also occasionally put brush to trunk. The canvases are sold in the gift shop and on the web.

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