Orangutans helping Orangutans.
Purchasing CMZoo orangutan art helps wild orangutan conservation.
Numerous zoos have trained their orangutans to paint. After realizing the potential of orangutans in zoos to contribute toward wild orangutan conservation, we decided to see if our orangutans were interested.
October 17, 2008 was the first day of painting training with our orangutans. As with all of the other behaviors we work on, we use only positive reinforcement.
Unique Benefits of Orangutan Art
- Painting enriches the orangutans’ lives and stimulates their minds.
- This is a unique opportunity for the orangutans that live at CMZ to help their wild counterparts. Every time a painting is purchased, 50% of the proceeds go to orangutan conservation.
- Learn more about orangutan conservation and the palm oil crisis.
- We know that every time someone looks at orangutan art displayed in their home or office, they will be reminded how amazing and intelligent these great apes are!
Method and Process
The orangutans choose whether or not they want to paint. The first sessions resulted in a few simple dots of paint on the paper, and a lot of broken paint brushes. By giving small treats (reinforcing) each time the artist dipped their brush into the paint, and each time he or she then touched the brush to the paper, the orangutans quickly caught on to the process. Within a week or two, the four adult orangutans were creating unique pieces of art!
Orangutan Artists Profiles
Tujoh – Bornean orangutan Tujoh was born April 30, 1994. He is definitely right-handed when it comes to painting. Tujoh sometimes uses short jab-like strokes when he paints, other days he seems more patient and gentle with his brush. One thing that is very consistent with his technique is that Tujoh always gets a LOT of paint on the brush and methodically wipes off the excess paint inside of his exhibit before he touches the brush to the paper. Tujoh uses double (or triple) the amount of paint that the other orangutans use for a painting, and often accidentally splatters his trainer!
Hadiah – Bornean orangutan Hadiah was born June 8, 1996. She often stands to paint, doing her classic pose of one foot on the ground, one foot up high. Hadiah seemed to enjoy painting very much when she painted outside, but as the weather was getting cooler we tried painting with her indoors. She did not want to paint! On warm days she continued to be inspired when she was outdoors. Her trainer Heidi decided to try painting at a different location indoors and Hadiah did great! Hadiah seems to think paint is gooey and yucky, and always avoids getting any paint on her hands.
Baka – Sumatran orangutan Baka was born June 15, 1990. Baka is the most free-spirited artist thus far, he alternates holding the brush with his hand and mouth, and has even held the brush with his foot! Baka’s primary trainer Mandy is very flexible and has encouraged him to paint in whatever manner he chooses. Baka broke more paint brushes than any of the other artists in the early stages of his painting career.
Sumagu – Sumatran orangutan Sumagu was born October 10, 1987. Her progression as an artist has been very interesting. Some of her early paintings have dabs and brush strokes around the entire edge of the paper, but she would not paint in the middle of the paper. Then one day…she discovered the center of the paper! Sumagu knows what to do, when she sees her trainer Debbie approaching with paper, brush and pallet in hand. Sumagu is pretty good at multi-tasking, her son Makan often checks in with her during the painting sessions.
Private Orangutan Painting Session
How can I get some Orangutan Art and help orangutan conservation?
Browse our Orangutan Art Gallery for available artwork below. Order online or by phone!