If humans can participate in art contests why can't chimpanzees? After all they do share over 90% of our DNA and are likely to do as good a job, if not better! In order to highlight their art talent as well as the amazing work of the eight chimpanzee sanctuaries around the country that provide care for the mammals retired from research, pet trade and entertainment, the folks at the Humane Society of the United States decided to hold a competition.
Sanctuaries were asked to submit original artwork that had been done independently by their residents. Given that painting is one of the many enrichment activities the centers offer, this was not a very difficult task. What was tough however was choosing one from the many masterpieces that the chimpanzees have created over the years.
Among the six paintings that made the final cut were masterpieces created by Jenny, an 18-year old primate that resides in Kentucky, Ripley and Cheetah, both from Florida, Jamie who hails from Washington and last but not least, Louisiana-based Chimp Haven's oldest resident - a 37-year old grandmother by the name of Brent.
In keeping with the current trend, the society asked members of the general public to vote for their favorite on its website. Over 27,000 fans cast their ballots, the results of which were announced August 29th, 2013.
And the winner (drum roll please), of the inaugural chimpanzee art competition is . . . Grandma Brent! The happy chimp who loves to laugh and play has a very unique painting style - She uses her tongue instead of a paintbrush! Her masterpiece not only helped make her famous, but also, earned her sanctuary the grand prize of $10,000USD. Brent it seems did not care about all the hoopla surrounding her artwork - She was too busy taking a nap!
In second place was Save the Chimps (Florida) resident Cheetah. Born sometime in the 1970's Cheetah spent 19 years of his life living alone in a laboratory, where he was subjected to over 400 biopsies. Since being rescued, he has discovered his passion in life - painting! Besides receiving the overall runner-up prize of $5,000 USD, his sanctuary was awarded an additional $5,000USD because his painting was chimpanzee activist Jane Goodall's top pick.
The third prize of $2,500 USD went to Ripley, a former actor who now resides at Florida's Center of Great Apes. His life experience prior to being saved by the sanctuary was as wretched as Cheetah's - Given to a roadside zoo after his life as actor ended, he witnessed his brother and two other chimp companions getting shot to death whilst trying to escape from an open cage door. Fortunately, he was saved and seems to have found solace in art.
While the other chimps didn't place, they were all winners and their sanctuaries were awarded a $500 USD grant each, for their efforts. In addition, all six masterpieces will be auctioned off on eBay and the proceeds will be distributed equally amongst the eight US sanctuaries.
Native to Africa, chimpanzee's are highly curious, social and intelligent animals. Millions of the great apes once resided in the equatorial regions of Africa, all the way from Southern Senegal to Central Africa and Western Tanzania. However over the years, their numbers have been greatly reduced thanks to poachers who kill them for meat, loss of habitat and disease. Today, there are only between 170,000-300,000 of the great apes believed to be living in the wild, which is why sanctuaries such as the ones in the USA are so crucial to help keep these smart animal from becoming extinct.