Jumbo-size exhibit at John Hunter

THERE’S an elephant in the room at John Hunter Hospital, but everyone is talking about it.

A two-metre tall drawing of an Asian elephant is the centrepiece of the latest exhibition at the Royal Newcastle Centre.

It is the work of University of Newcastle natural history illustration lecturer Andrew Howells.

Dr Howells drew Asian elephants at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo and Fort Worth Zoo in Texas as part of his doctorate studies.

Despite the proliferation of digital photos, natural history illustration remains an important tool for documenting the detail of the natural world.

Dr Howells’ drawings helped veterinary scientists create a reference system where elephants could be catalogued into nine stages of health – from emaciated to obese – based on their bone prominence.

It will help researchers document the reproductive health of the mammals while in captivity.

Dr Howells said he observed that every elephant had its own personality.

‘‘You can see who is the cheeky one, who’s serious,’’ he said.

‘‘They’re definitely intelligent you can see them sizing things up and playing.

‘‘You’ve got to keep them occupied.’’

The exhibition is part of the hospital’s Arts for Health program, which brightens up the hospital surrounds.

There are 10 drawings of elephants on display until the end of January.

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