Monkey Abroad

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Elephant Painting

Elephants Painting at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center


This past weekend, I witnessed elephants painting at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang, Thailand. The TECC is the first place in Thailand where elephants learned how to paint, and these gentle giants can actually paint incredible works of art. It was one of the most stunning, unforgettable experiences of my life.

Elephants Painting

The Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang has very strict humane treatment guidelines. More than 50 elephants dwell in the TECC in Lampang, and 6 of which are King Bhumibol’s white elephants in the Royal Elephant Stables. As Thailand’s only government-owned elephant camp, the TECC is a leader in the ethical treatment and research of these beautiful animals. Far too many elephant camps in Thailand do not adhere to humane treatment guidelines, so please do some research on any elephant center before you plan a visit.

Elephants Painting

It only costs 200 baht ($7) for adult admission into the TECC. At first you get to see elephants bathing in a pond and playfully splashing each other and the trainers. Once the elephants are clean, they line up and prepare for a performance.

Elephants painting

The performance is marveling. The elephants each bow their heads as they’re introduced, then display their outstanding strength and creativity in an incredible show.

Elephants Painting

Hands down, the highlight of the performance at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center was witnessing the creativity of these beautiful giants. One elephant played music on a massive xylophone while others painted stunningly beautiful pictures on canvases.

Elephants Painting

The hair on the back of my neck stood up when I saw the elephants painting. It is absolutely one of the most amazing things I’ve ever witnessed. I was so moved by the performance that I bought one of the paintings. At 500 baht ($15), you can buy a painting of an elephant by an elephant, and support the TECC. The creative expression of an animal is true art, and I would have gladly paid much more.

Elephants Painting

Nua-Oon, a 9-year-old female, proudly stands next to her painting. This is the painting I bought.

The experience I had at the camp was not what you’d expect from a typical touristy elephant center (because it isn’t one). As a pioneer in conservation and elephant science, the TECC is exactly as the website describes: a “relaxed, non-commercial experience.” The camp is naturally located in the middle of the jungle on the outskirts of Lampang, Thailand.

Elephants Painting

For 20 baht, you can buy bundles of sugar cane to feed the elephants.

If you ever visit northern Thailand, you must plan a trip to Lampang to see the Thai Elephant Conservation Center. Seeing these massive creatures up close and personal was breathtaking, but when I witnessed the elephants painting, I was almost moved to tears. They say an elephant never forgets. I know that I will never forget this experience.

Author: Kevin Cook

I want to inspire you to pursue your own dream of traveling and/or living overseas!


  1. An elephant draws better than I can, this is…not right..

  2. Your experiences continue to amaze me, mostly by the things you are doing. This was, however the most endearing and touching of them all. Know how proud you are of your new piece of art.

  3. Now THAT’S the way to start a GREAT art collection!

  4. I need to see this but I believe you saw it !

  5. Just curious about how this camp has such strict humane guidlines and yet they’re painting, doing tricks, playing music and putting on shows. How is any of that natural? Did you happen to ask how these elephants are trained to do these things? And the fact that they’re being ridden means their sprit has been broken. Why wouldnt you want to see an elephant in its natural environment just being an elephant..not performing. I wish people would opt for Elephant Nature Park or Boon Lott’s where there is no exploitation. Elephants roam freely, eat when they want, bathe in the river and form their own groups of friends. There’s no painting, riding or anything else unnatural. That’s real conservation to me.

    • Bee,
      Perhaps you should start your own elephant conservation center.

    • I hear you Bee. I’m faced with this dilemma right now. For a field trip my college is taking students to this very place tomorrow. There are a group of us that are not going and feel that it is not right for the school to sponsor such a trip either. I’ve been torn about it and I have tried to do research on the background of this place but I haven’t been able find very much, which could be good. However, as much as I would love to own a piece of elephant artwork, I can not bring myself to support a place where the elephants are ridden and “perform” for people. It just doesn’t sit right with me. I’d love to see elephants up close again, but I think I’ll stick to the places where they aren’t used to entertain or carry people around.



    I don’t say these things to be disrespectful. Really. I’m just saddened that people don’t understand what actually goes on behind the scenes or what they do the elephants as babies in order to train them to do certain things. I read somewhere that this place doesn’t make them paint if they don’t want to paint..but the fact that any of them do tells me instantly that they’ve been hurt in the past. I encourage you to read more about it when you can. You cant always believe what you’ve been told or what you think you saw. The two sanctiaries I mentioned are amazing places. If you havent been, you’re missing out.
    There are many, many more blogs and articles on these things. Tourists riding elephants is usually in the headline but they almost all mention painting and doing tricks of any kind as well because the way they’re trained is the same. Please check them out.

  7. We were there a few weeks ago. I run a large animal welfare center in the United States and I truly loved it. Yes, they do paint the paintings and we have several from there. While we were there, they were caring for an elephant that was owned by villagers that had been hit by a car. Truly an amazing place to visit.

  8. Are the paintings really only $15 still? Do they sell out quickly? I would assume at that price tourists would be buying multiples? I’m going to Thailand just for this expierence and for a painting.

    • As far as I know, they’re still $15. When I was there, there were dozens of older paintings for sale in the gift shop. You could definitely buy one or many when you visit.

  9. Hi Kevin,
    Our family of 6 was just there and our son proposed to his girlfriend on our jungle ride, it was amazing and a once in a life time experience. We purchased 5 paintings as our favorite memory of Thailand and our white cylinder containing the paintings was left behind on our tour van with Asiaworld. Is there any way we can purchase more paintings to replace the ones we lost for our adult children who accompanied us?
    Thank you,
    The Jackson family

  10. How can i purchase a painting? would they ship it to the USA?

Let me know what you think


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