Ruby, a 7 month old elephant from Thailand, came to the Phoenix Zoo in 1974. She was the only elephant at the zoo. Her roommates were some chickens and a goat.
Ruby was very bored. She had no elephants around her. She was given food and everything she needed, so she had nothing to do. When staff at the zoo saw her scratching in the dirt with a stick, they had an idea. They gave her a paint brush and some paints.
With just a little bit of help from her trainer, Ruby became a painter with her own style. She produced many paintings. Her most expensive painting sold for $25,000.
Elephants have the brains to learn how to paint. But, just like people, not all elephants have the interest or talent to turn it into a "career." Ruby was one of the few who did.
Ruby's painting came to a stop in 1998 when she died from an infection. She was only 25 years old.
There are very few elephant artists left in North America. In Asia, there are programs trying to develop elephant artists. The money earned from the sale of their art goes towards protecting wild elephants.