At the Buffalo Zoo in Buffalo, NY, the elephants do all kinds of things to keep busy — they have scavenger hunts and even have watermelon-eating contests.
Surapa, a 30-year-old elephant the trainers describe as spunky and "a bit of a diva," has discovered her hidden talent is painting. She paints year round, and her artwork is sold in the zoo's gift shop for $40, which helps to raise extra money for the zoo.
She has two main styles, former trainer Melissa King said — a circular swirl and what the zoo calls "blades of grass" — swipes up and down with the paintbrush. Sometimes they wind up looking like things — like tulips or hearts — but mostly they're abstract, King said.
The zoo folks are not sure she has a favorite color, but when left to her own devices she seems to go for yellow first.
"It's really amazing because this I've never seen it before," said 11-year old Abaigeal.
In case you're wondering, elephants are individuals, much like humans — not all of them paint. They tried it with all the elephants — one of them just stood there with the brush. The other tried to eat it!
Only Surapa took to the canvas.
Some of the other animals at the zoo — sea lions, monkeys, lizards, snakes and giraffes — make paintings occasionally for certain promotions, like the Art Gone Wild event in September. But none of them paint as much or are as talented as Surapa.
The zoo has even recruited Surapa to help decorate for the holidays and bring in some extra money by painting Christmas ornaments. They are sold for $10 to $15 depending on the size. She also sometimes paints wine glasses for special events at the zoo.
She doesn't paint every day — only if she's in the mood. The zoo said she probably paints several hundred items per year.