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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.