Memphis Zoo elephants paint to raise money for Elephants for Africa


Want to watch an elephant paint? Drinking elephant-themed cocktails? Maybe even buy a painting of an elephant?

A visit to the Memphis Zoo in October gives you the opportunity to knock one off your to-do list.

The Memphis Zoo will host the 11th annual Art for Elephants event on Saturday, which raises awareness and funds for Elephants for Africa, a conservation program. Gina the Elephant will paint live for Art for Elephants visitors, and patrons can watch the elephants eat their Halloween-themed enrichment boxes.

The zoo will also host a new event on October 8 for the program – Conservation and Cocktails: A Night for African Elephants, during which visitors can drink elephant-themed cocktails (like Kosti cosmos) while passing time with the mammals and talking with the pachyderm. crew.

Memphis Zoo associate curator Amanda Schweighart discusses the importance of elephant conservation at the Elephant Exhibit on Sept. 30, 2022.

Kate Evans, founder and director of Elephants for Africa, will attend the October 8 event to discuss the program’s conservation efforts.

“It’s a party with a purpose,” said Amanda Schweighart, associate curator at the Memphis Zoo. “All of the proceeds we raise from our ticket sales, and we’re going to have an amazing silent auction with super high-profile items, all of that money will go directly to elephant conservation benefiting the Elephants for Charity. African.”

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Schweighart said the zoo started hosting Art for Elephants in 2012 to support the charity and has since raised around $60,000 in hopes that Conservation and Cocktails will add even more to that figure.

“It highlights African elephants, conservation, the plight of these animals in the wild, the importance of ensuring they have a place in the future of this planet,” he said. she declared.

On Friday afternoon, the media got a glimpse of the talents of the elephants and watched Asali, the oldest female elephant at the Memphis Zoo, show off her artistic skills as she grabbed brushes with her trunk and stroked bruises and reds on a canvas.

“Asali, she’s been kind of a good painter here for a number of years,” Schweighart said. “Elephants are intelligent animals, so they pick things up very quickly, but we kind of want to share that experience with our customers who come to Conservation and Cocktails that night.”

Asali, the Memphis Zoo's oldest elephant, shows off her artistic skills on September 30, 2022, as she grabs paintbrushes with her trunk and strokes blues and reds across a canvas.

Asali, 37, will do a live painting session on October 8 at the cocktail party and the zoo will auction off her painting along with other wins including four-course dinners at some of the zoo’s restaurants, a buyout of the “all new splashpad and behind — on-stage experiences the zoo doesn’t typically offer,” Schweighart said.

“African elephants, they’re struggling,” she said. “The population has fallen below 400,000, we are losing them at a rate of around 96 elephants a day. As ambassadors for these species we are saying in a way ‘not under our watch’.”

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Since 2011, Memphis Zoo has supported Elephants for Africa by providing equipment and staff for its base in Botswana, Africa.

Terry Reyes, a keeper at Memphis Zoo, recently returned from a 10-day trip to Botswana where she helped research elephants at a camp.

“Elephants came through the camp every day, just wild elephants,” Reyes said. “Some of the money that I raised, that I applied for in the program, went to elephant collars, we put on 10 elephant collars this year to track where they are going for the long term.”

Reyes, 28, said the program also helps local farmers in Botswana live among elephants by installing fences or growing plants that deter wild animals.

Asali, the Memphis Zoo's oldest elephant, reaches out to zookeeper Terry Reyes on September 30, 2022.

The zoo keeper is looking forward to the cocktail party, during which she plans to mingle with guests and discuss more about elephant conservation and how people can help.

“I’m really excited to see what the event brings us,” said Reyes.

Reyes has been working with elephants since 2019 and “it’s something different every day,” she said.

The zoo currently has five elephants with the newest to the herd, Kosti, joining in July.

Dima Amro covers the suburbs for The Commercial Appeal and can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @AmroDima.

When: 9am-4pm Saturday

Where: Elephant exhibit at Memphis Zoo, 2000 Prentiss Place

Tickets: Included with general admission ticket

You must be 21 or older to attend this event.

When: 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Oct. 8

Where: Elephant Exhibit and Teton Trek at Memphis Zoo, 2000 Prentiss Place

Tickets: $100 for members, $125 for non-members.

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