Moment with an elephant brings global attention

By Diane Y. Welch


In 2007, when Del Mar residents Liz Allen and Mark Fangue were on a buying trip for artifacts for their new business, Exotic World Gifts, they discovered an elephant camp in northern Thailand. They had no way of knowing then that this retreat for Asian elephants would bring them global media attention.

But when an elephant ambled toward an easel, toting her paint box in her swinging trunk, then meticulously painted a picture of herself, the couple knew that this was no ordinary event.

The elephant was captured on Fangue’s high-definition video camera and then shared on YouTube for the world to witness.

“It blew my mind,” said Fangue as he recalled filming the painting pachyderm in a recent interview. “When you watch the video and you hear the person say, ‘Oh my God!’ that’s me.”

While it may seem hard to believe that elephants can be trained to paint meticulously crafted art works, with the aid of a mahout — a trainer who is closely bonded to the elephant — the seemingly impossible is mastered. And in partnership with the elephant camp in Thailand, Allen and Fangue now sell these paintings on their Web site,, to raise funds that directly support the Asian elephants which are rapidly becoming extinct.

Allen and Fangue, who met on three years ago, have since been swept up in the media spotlight.

“Within four days of posting the video it had 7.2 million viewers,” Fangue said. “It caused such a sensation that we appeared on Good Morning America, the Today Show, CNN, NBC, International BBC, National Geographic, Japanese radio, and Animal Planet.”

But some disputed the authenticity of the elephant video. When the National Geographic film crew visited with the couple in their Del Mar cottage, they got a private showing of Fangue’s video.

“It is hard to believe that this video is real,” said Fangue, “but as they watched the original that was still in my camera they saw that it was genuine. So they flew us to Thailand with their film crew to validate our film and to document what turned out to be part of a feature program that’s now airing, called ‘Wild on Tape.’”

The video has since topped 10 million viewers with more than 18,000 comments and 1,400 blogs and has spring boarded Exotic World Gifts to a new level of visibility. On the couple’s return from Thailand in August, 2008, Animal Planet asked to do a show on them.

“They flew their crew out to Rancho Santa Fe to interview us and do a program here. We had products at the J Gallery in Del Rayo Village Center and they filmed the show right there in Leigh Timmons’ showroom,” Fangue said.

In alignment with their support for sustainability for artisans in countries that include Thailand, Bali, Africa, Vietnam, Central America, South America, and India, Allen and Fangue are active members of the Fair Trade Federation and Free America, and participate in events that promote world peace, said Allen.

“We promote earth-friendly practices and are helping to end poverty. We recently did an exhibit at Jane Goodall’s United Nations Peace Day, and Pierce Brosnan, who was very complimentary of our work, bought a necklace for his wife and he encouraged us to do more. Our business values are based on justice, dignity, empowerment, transparency and respect for people and the planet.”

To find out more about Exotic World Gifts visit them on line at www. Click on the link “Original Elephant Painting” to see Mark Fangue’s video recording of an elephant painting.

Related posts:

  1. Elephant artists paint to save their species
  2. Elephants relocated to zoo improving
  3. Disney’s delighful robot brings soul to the machine
  4. Summer brings ‘Star Trek’ exhibit, free outdoor films
  5. Gaming industry weathers the global recession

Short URL:

Posted by on Dec 3, 2009. Filed under Archives. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Leave a Reply



Bottom Buttons 1

Bottom Buttons 2

Bottom Buttons 3

Bottom Buttons 4

Bottom Buttons 5

Bottom Buttons 6





  • Czech violin duo to perform at Village Church in Rancho Santa Fe
    In cooperation with the Consulate General of the Czech Republic, the Czech School San Diego hosts a free classical violin concert by internationally recognized Czech violin player Jaroslav Svecený and his daughter, Julie Svecená, who are on a tour of the United States. The concert will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 27 in the Village Church. The father-daughter duo will […]
  • Rancho Santa Fe weekly sports update
    Torrey Pines defeated Canyon Crest Academy 4-3 in a Palomar League opener for both teams on Oct. 9. Alayna Tomlinson and Farah Farjood each scored two goals to lead the Falcons. Samantha “Sammy” Cirino added one goal and one assist. […]
  • ‘Kachina Dolls and Dances’ to be topic at Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society lecture
    Native American expert Dr. James Kemp will discuss “Kachina Dolls and Dances” from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25, at the Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society. Katsina figures, also known as kachina dolls (in photo at right), were carved typically from cottonwood root by the Hopi people to instruct young girls and new brides about the katsinas, the im […]