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Utah Orangutans Paint to Raise Money

19 October 2012 Written by  Kim Schuske
Utah Orangutans Paint to Raise Money Hogel Zoo

The four orangutans living in Hogle Zoo love to paint and now they are painting with a purpose—to raise money for their endangered relatives living in Borneo.

21 year old Talukun is a 285 pound gentle giant. His hand is more than twice as big when held up palm to palm to the hand of zookeeper Erin Jones.

Talukun, and the family group Elijah, Eve, and 5 year old Acara, made around thirty five paintings. Half of them are collaborations with local artists. Eddy Del Rio has been painting portraits for fifteen years. Although separated by bars, he and Elijah took turns creating a work of art.

“Wow! Truly rare. Awesome experience. I haven’t been through anything like that ever before,” says Del Rio. “You know when you see an orangutan through a glass window, you get a lot from them, but when you get to see them in person and it seems like they know that it’s different too.”

Del Rio started with the painting Elijah made and focused on capturing his eyes to create a portrait of the orangutan. He says eyes are key to a portrait, “you know they are so intelligent just to look at them. You see the intelligence in their eyes.”

About 50,000 orangutans live on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra in Indonesia. Zookeeper, Erin Jones says it’s estimated that 6,000 are killed every year. She says the main problem is palm oil plantations, which are created by clear cutting forests.

“When the orangutan’s need to travel to find food and things like that, they run into palm oil plantations,” says Jones. “The orangutans go into those plantations to eat food, and farmers treat them the way do pests in this country and try to eradicate them,” she adds.

Palm oil is used in cosmetics, cookies, candy, and is a main ingredient of biodiesel.

This story originally aired 7/9/10

The Orange-Utahn Art Show is a reccuring event at Hogle Zoo, visit their website.

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