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Chimpanzees create paintings for competition that drew more than 27,000 online votes

Brent paints only with his tongue, a technique that results in beautiful pieces of art. (CHIMP HAVEN)

For Brent, a 37-year-old chimpanzee who lives at a sanctuary in Louisiana, an interesting painting technique has paid off.

Brent’s entry in the first Chimpanzee Art Contest, run by the Humane Society of the United States, was a cluster of smudges and speckles that he painted using only his tongue. Eccentric, maybe, but Brent’s piece won the popular vote in the contest, and earned $10,000 for Chimp Haven, the refuge in Keithville, La., where he has lived since 2006.

The judge’s selection, made by primatologist Jane Goodall, went to Cheetah, a former laboratory chimpanzee, who used an autumnal palette dominated by yellow, orange and red.

The contest featured six paintings created by chimpanzees living in U.S. sanctuaries. Public voting attracted more than 27,000 online votes. [See images of the Chimpanzee Art Contest winners]

The Humane Society intended the competition to draw attention to chimpanzees’ abilities as well as the importance of sanctuaries in caring for chimpanzees once used in research, the entertainment industry or the pet trade. Cheetah, who took second place in the popular vote in addition to the judged prize, garnered two $5,000 awards for his sanctuary, Save the Chimps in Florida.

“It’s so important that the public support all of these sanctuaries in their mission to provide exceptional care to chimpanzees and other primates who have suffered through so much,” said Goodall.

The ways in which chimpanzees are used in the United States, particularly in biomedical research, are changing. A proposal by the federal government, announced in June, would give captive chimpanzees protection under the Endangered Species Act. (Wild chimpanzees are already protected.) If adopted, this change could sharply limit the animals’ use in medical research.

The paintings will be auctioned on eBay with proceeds benefiting the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance.

— LiveScience



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