01 | A Typical Day for an Elephant Artist
Elephants Taking a Break
Elephant artists have the same lifestyle as the other elephants at the TECC. All the elephants have some work to do during the day, though there are many different work activities and some elephants are able to do some jobs but not others.
The elephants sleep for about four hours a night, usually between 11.00pm and 3.00am. They sleep in the forest near the Center. The sleeping place is moved daily to provide fresh surroundings. Male and female elephants sleep separately. Males with tusks are tethered near to the home of the mahout so that poachers will be deterred.
The mahout goes into the forest to call his elephant at about 6.30 am and the first chore of the day, just like humans, is to take a shower. The shower is taken in the river and the mahout’s usually ride on the head of the elephant during the process.
Work starts at about 8.00 am and concludes at about 2.30 to 3.30 pm, with plenty of breaks in between. Most elephants at the Center work to entertain tourists in one way or another, because this is the main source of funds that are needed to run the Center and to care for the elephants.
Some perform in a show which takes place at the Center showground. Here they demonstrate their skills at carrying, pushing and pulling logs, walking on the logs without falling, following instructions from their mahouts to walk, run, stand and sit. These are all activities that Thai elephants have traditionally been trained to do in the former logging industry. In addition the show includes brief demonstrations of painting and playing musical instruments. These shows are well rehearsed and the elephants love to perform. They are not subjected to any stresses or strains or activities that they are not physically suited to. After the show their favourite moment is to greet the onlookers and to accept gifts of sugar cane and bananas, which they take directly from the hands of the tourists with their trunk and devour with amazing alacrity.
Others, the largest and strongest, give rides to tourists, who sit on a ‘howda’, a broad backed wooden bench that is strapped across the elephant’s upper back. Elephant riding at the Center take place in a natural setting, either for a short 10-minute stint around the grounds, or a half or full hour through the woods and mountains nearby.
Those elephants with the very best temperaments are chosen to work with the Homestay project visitors. These are people who spend a few days living in the mahout village, working alongside the mahouts and also practicing riding and giving commands to the elephants.
We fit in the painting sessions to produce artworks for this website around other activities, usually starting early in the morning while the artists are fresh and the day cool. You can go to this page to read about Teaching Elephants How to Paint.
And to view over 70 finished elephant paintings be sure to check out The Gallery.