Elephant Appreciation Day Features Animal Artwork (PHOTOS)

09/22/2011 03:30 pm ET | Updated Nov 22, 2011

There is so much to appreciate about elephants that there has been an entire day dedicated to them: September 22 is Elephant Appreciation Day.

According to Mother Nature Network, the holiday was created in 1996 by a business man living in Sarasota, Florida, who liked elephants.

Not only do these intelligent giants have great memories, their own movies and the ability to learn how to use a prosthetic leg, they can also create "elephant art."

An elephant art gallery has been operating in Thai elephant paintings since 2000. Paintings by the elephant artists have sold in New York for $2,200, according to the gallery's website.

"While the elephants are painting they don't just wave their trunks around in the air, splashing paint onto the paper in a 'hit and miss' fashion. On the contrary they obviously have spatial awareness and they carefully apply the strokes within the confines of the paper, rarely going over the edges except, one can assume, as an artistic gesture," writes Issaraporn Kaew-ee, director of the gallery.

Unfortunately, much needs to be done to protect these animals and their artwork. The Wall Street Journal reported this month on a dramatic increase in the price and demand for ivory in China, further threatening the African elephant population, which is considered "near threatened" on the IUCN Red List. Asian elephants are listed as endangered.

Sri Lanka recently conducted a controversial census to determine the country's elephant population. The Associated Press reports:

In the early 1900s, an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 elephants roamed wild on this tropical island off the southern coast of India. But poaching and the loss of habitat due to human activities such as deforestation for farming have taken their toll.

Wild elephants are increasingly entering villages in search of food, rampaging through houses, destroying crops and killing an estimated 50 people a year.

Around 250 elephants are killed annually, mostly by farmers defending their crops or villages.

Elephant Appreciation Day is being celebrated by ZSL Whipsnade Zoo this weekend. Check out the paintings by Karishma, a 13-year-old Asian elephant at the zoo:

---