By Kim Schuske
Salt Lake City, UT – 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 zoo keeper Erin Jones.
Talukun, and the family group Elija, Eve, and 5 year old Akara, 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 Elija 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 Elija 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-thousand orangutans live on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra in Indonesia. Zookeeper, Erin Jones says it's estimated that 6-thousand are killed every year. She says the main problem is palm oil plantations, which are created by clear cutting forests.
"When the orangutans 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.
The art show starts tomorrow at the Anderson Foothill Branch library. A silent auction will be held on July 15. Money raised will be given to Kinabatanga Orangutan Conservation Project.
OrangeUtahn Art Show sponsored by Hogle Zoo