Tongue-painting chimp wins first prize in US contest


Sat, Aug 31, 2013 - Page 7

A painting by a 37-year-old primate who applies color with his tongue instead of a brush has been deemed the finest chimpanzee art in the land.

Brent, a retired laboratory animal, was the top vote-getter in an online chimp art contest organized by the Humane Society of the US, which announced the results on Thursday. He won US$10,000 for the Chimp Haven sanctuary in northwest Louisiana.

A Chimp Haven spokeswoman said Brent was unavailable for comment on Thursday.

“I think he’s asleep,” Ashley Gordon said.

However, as the society said on its Web site: “The votes are in, so let the pant hooting begin!”— pant hooting being the characteristic call of an excited chimp.

Five other sanctuaries around the country competed, using paintings created during “enrichment sessions,” which can include any of a wide variety of activities and playthings.

More than 27,000 people voted, Humane Society spokeswoman Nicole Ianni said in a news release.

The organization is not giving vote totals “to keep the focus on the positive work of the sanctuaries and not necessarily the ‘winner,’” she said in an e-mail.

The sanctuaries care for chimpanzees retired from research, entertainment and the pet trade. Chimp Haven is the national sanctuary for those retired from federal research.

“Brent paints only with his tongue. His unique approach and style, while a little unorthodox, results in beautiful pieces of art,” it adds.

Cathy Willis Spraetz, Chimp Haven’s president and chief executive officer, said she chose a painting by Brent partly because of that unusual method.