Amazing Elephant Artists Show Off At The Topeka Zoo!

By: Lindsay Shively, Eric Ives Email
By: Lindsay Shively, Eric Ives Email

Humans aren't the only ones that can be artists. Meet an unlikely pair living in the Topeka Zoo.

Elephants, forty-eight-year-old Sunda and thirty-seven-year-old Timbo have been together at the Topeka zoo for 25 years and have become quite the artists.

"People look at it as art, we look at it as enrichment for the animals." explains zoo director, Mike Coker. "Our animals are accomplished painters. Either they'll pick up the brush and paint the canvas, step on it, or blow on it."

And folks get a kick out of animal art. "People love it, it's a very unique piece of art work. and if you get the story behind the animal that created it, what a neat thing. That's the whole thing about art, that special piece in your home or office, it means something to you," says Coker.

Not only is this art enriching for the animals, but it's used for the Zoo's education programs. Sometimes the pieces are sold in the gift shop and they are also a source of fundraising for the zoo.

"We've been doing painting with elephants for about 20 years. It's a little different now with protective contact for about ten years now," says Coker. Trainers stand outside of thick metal bars while the elephants reach through a space about a foot wide between each. "Quite simply what it is, I'm not coming in to the elephant's space and telling it what to do. I'm on the outside asking it to move over, etc. and it gets a postive reward. It's a very safe system for us," says Coker.

The Topeka Zoo is sure to use paint that is completely safe and non-toxic.

631 SW Commerce Pl. Topeka, Kansas 66615 phone: 785-272-6397 fax: 785-272-1363 email:
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