The centre has been open around nine months, and is the only place in Asia where you’re able to paint small resin elephants by hand – replicas of the now famous ‘Elephant Parade’ fibreglass statues on display around the world.
Elephant Parade Asia Regional Manager David Ring, based in the Chiang Mai office, explains that the art workshops are not only fun for the whole family, but also help fund elephant projects run by the Asian Elephant Foundation.
“Visitors love the idea and the concept. The appeal is two-fold. Obviously there’s the artistic part; people enjoy doing something. If you look at it as a memento, you have got something really special from your visit here that you created yourself.”
“The second part is that people like what we are doing. We like the fact that our tagline is ‘Let’s paint a brighter future’. By people participating in the workshop, they’ve got something special to take away, and they’re giving something to the Asian Elephant Foundation as a result. It works on several levels – the emotional, creative, and the fact you’re taking away something special.”
David explains that in 2006, a Dutch tourist named Marc Spitz visited injured elephant Mosha at a hospital in Lampang. Mosha’s leg was blown off by a landmine, and she had been catapulted to international stardom when she became the first elephant to be fitted with a prosthetic limb.
“He and his son Mike were quite moved by this. They saw this elephant, and then found out more about the plight of the Asian elephant in general, and decided they wanted to do something positive to help the situation. They thought, ‘What can we do that’s different?’”
Fast forward a few years, and the Spitz’ Elephant Parade idea is now the world’s largest open-air art exhibition of elephant statues, many of which have been decorated by local artists or celebrities. The aim is to create public awareness and support for the conservation of the Asian elephant.
David explains that the parades have taken place all around the world, including in Luxembourg, Amsterdam, Singapore, Milan, Copenhagen and an upcoming August show in Hong Kong.
“Basically for a period of two months they have this three-dimensional art show in a city – the Elephant Parade,” says David.
At the end of that time the organisers hold a charity auction and sell the elephant statues. The net proceeds go to the Asian Elephant Foundation, which Elephant Parade works on behalf of.
“The auctions can raise a lot of money,” David says. “I think the record is around 150,000 Euro (B6.6 million), but typically they sell for around 10,000 Euro (B445,000), and the net proceeds go to the foundation. So if you have 96 elephant [statues] you can potentially raise a lot of money.”
For more information visit elephantparade.com.
Asian Elephant Foundation
The Asian Elephant Foundation was created as an independent, non-profit foundation, to assist in distributing funds raised by Elephant Parade. The foundation uses the funds raised for various projects and organisations across 13 different countries, including many in Thailand, which are dedicated to the well-being and conservation of the Asian elephant. The information centre of the foundation is located at the Elephant Parade House in Chiang Mai. At the start of the 20th century, the foundation says there were 20,000 Asian elephants around the Chiang Mai area. Today, there are just 5,000 elephants left in the whole of Thailand, and only 2,000-3,000 of those live in the wild. For more information visit theasianelephantfoundation.org
Khiri runs a half day tour to the Elephant Parade House, which starts with a hotel pick-up at 9.30am. The tour costs B1,000 per person and includes hotel transfers, one elephant to paint during the workshop. For more details visit khiri.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Khiri also has a Phuket office, which can be contacted at 076 617 753 or email email@example.com.