(please watch the whole thing to the end, it is really quite incredible!!)
As I was looking through the comments on that video, there were a lot of people who were very concerned about the elephant. Was it being forced to paint for crowds of people? Did it get beaten if it did not paint? Do the elephants even like to paint? I was curious too, so I did a little searching and found this website:
The Elephant Art Gallery -Authentic and Inspiring Paintings by Elephants
These elephants live at the National Elephant Institute in Thailand. I'm not sure if the elephant in the video above lives here, or somewhere else. Apparently there are other places that have taken teaching elephants how to paint as well. The paintings on this website are mostly abstract, rather than lifelike, but I don't see how the video could be a fake.
Here are some interesting quotes from the website about the art, how the elephants learn to paint, and more:
"I am certain that our elephant artists know what they are doing when they paint. After I have handed the loaded paintbrush to them, they proceed to paint in their own distinctive style, with delicate strokes or broad ones, gently dabbing the bristles on the paper or with a sweeping flourish, vertical lines or arcs and loops, ponderously or rapidly and so on. No two artists have the same style."----------------------------------
"...we have truly discovered an activity which the elephants thoroughly enjoy.”----------------------------------
"Although elephants are very intelligent and naturally creative, painting with their trunks is not an activity that any have been found to perform in the wild. Therefore all the artists first have to go to school to learn how to paint... It takes only one day to discover if the elephant has real interest in the activity and any aptitude at art. Once the most promising students have been selected, they then continue to be taught for up to a week before they are considered ready to make a living from it...I, for one, would LOVE to own a piece of art by an elephant! They have always been one of my favorite animals. They are so intelligent, they have feelings, and I think they are amazing! I have also seen dolphins and horses painting. What I wouldn't do for a whole collection of paintings done by animals :)
They are taught by first showing them how to hold the paintbrush. While some curl the trunk around the brush instinctively, the preferred method at the Center is to hold the brush in the ‘nostril’ at the end of the trunk, which gives the artist greater range of movement for the brushstrokes. For this purpose the paintbrush is modified so as to be the right length and thickness to hold easily.
Next they are introduced to the easel and taught how close to stand to it so that they can extend their trunk comfortably. Finally they are guided by the mahout to apply the brush to the paper. Some artists take to this quicker than others, but all of them need time and encouragement to learn how to apply the paint within the confines of the paper, to know when the paint has dried up and to develop a style of brushstroke that suits them.
During the training the artist’s natural instinctive style becomes evident. No two elephant artists have the same style and just like human artists, their style develops and matures over time.
It is quite unnecessary to force the elephant to learn how to paint. Those that do not seem to enjoy the activity are introduced to other activities. Today there are 14 elephant artists at the Center and all of them thoroughly enjoy painting."