Elephant Parade, Let’s Paint a Brighter Future

Elephant Parade, Let’s Paint a Brighter Future


Elephant Parade

Let’s Paint a Brighter Future

Catherine Vanesse

18 May 2018

At once an art gallery, a learning center and a shop, the Elephant Parade House in Chiang Mai invites visitors to learn about the fate of the pachyderms in Asia.

If one animal symbolizes Thailand, it is without a doubt the elephant. Throughout time, these giants have played an important role in the culture of the country, whether associated with the royalty or with religion, used in farming and even in the army all the way until 1989. Their role has constantly changed, and today they are more associated with tourism. Yet beyond
the elephant rides, interesting initiatives are available to raise awareness about elephant welfare and about taking on a more responsible attitude toward them. This is the case of the Elephant Parade®.

The charitable company Elephant Parade® was founded in 2006 by Marc and Mike Spits after a trip to Thailand. During their vacation, the father and son were moved by the story of Mosha, a young elephant that lost a leg after stepping on a landmine.

Through the foundation and by selling decorated elephants, Marc and Mike Spits have raised the funds needed to care for Mosha, who is still growing and needs a new prosthesis every year, and also to raise awareness about the fate of endangered Asian elephants.

Currently, there are only 50,000 pachyderms left on the continent, a population that has fallen by 70%, and whose natural habitat has been reduced by 95% in a century. According to the Elephant Parade® foundation, the species may disappear within thirty years if nothing is done to protect them. With this goal, the foundation is helping to fund elephant protection and conservation programs by donating 20% of its profits generated by selling resin statues standing 150cm tall, in addition to smaller models measuring 10, 15 or 20cm tall.

A Unique Set of Artworks

Elephant Parade® represents the largest exhibit of decorated elephant statues in public. Created by local and international artists, as well as a few celebrities, the collection of resin statues the size of a baby elephant are unique works of art. Their first traveling exhibit took place in Rotterdam, Netherlands, in 2007. Since then, Elephant Parade® has visited some twenty different cities, including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Calais, Antwerp, and most recently, New Delhi in January 2018. More than 1,350 artists including Jack Vettriano, Ronald Ventura, Paul Smith, Katy Perry, Diane von Furstenberg, Sarah Duchess of York, Karim Rashid, Leona Lewis, Sir Richard Branson and Bryan Adams have participated in these exhibits by decorating more than 1,480 elephants!

On the banks of the Mae Ping River, north of Chiang Mai, you’ll find the Elephant Parade House. It holds the largest collection of elephants, and its garden even has a parade of life-sized elephants, with some twenty models on exhibit.

The inside is a shop, a workshop and a museum all in one, where you’ll find several smaller models on display, along with an educational aspect through signs and videos that explain the origins and the role of the foundation. Here in Chiang Mai, the miniatures are designed and made by hand, and they are available for purchase in several shops and online. For an even more unique experience, visitors are invited to paint their own 10cm model on site, or to buy an Elephant Art Box.


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