Down then rewards the novice artist with a few raw fish and a quick dip in the pool.
Down is the marine mammal supervisor at the
"This is a mentally stimulating behavior that we've taught
Opening Friday at a.k.a. gallery in the
"We wanted the opportunity to share with zoo guests and also people that maybe aren't as familiar with the zoo programs we have for our animals," said
"It's called enrichment. Enrichment is something different, unique, that maybe our keepers introduce into the lives of different animals in the zoo. ... It keeps them stimulated. It might encourage natural behaviors. It certainly changes up routine."
Art on the wing
When Zeppy, the salmon-crested cockatoo, gets artistic in front of a new audience, a certain amount of squawking and preening is routine.
"You're just eating up this attention. Look at you. Do you want to paint?" coos bird keeper
Holding the end of the brush in his strong beak, Zeppy strokes the bristles across the red square, stopping occasionally for a snack.
While creatures like
"They can be temperamental artists. Zeppy is a temperamental artist. There's no doubt," Henson said with a laugh. "It's complete choice ... and it's all positive. There's training that's involved with the relationship that's cultivated with the keeper or the trainer and the animal, and then there's also positive reinforcement. For some animals, it is food reward; for some, it may be physical touch."
The fifth annual "Art Gone Wild" will feature paintings by a veritable menagerie of the zoo's animals, including Asian elephants, rhinos, chimpanzees, okapis, orangutans, flamingos, gorillas and Galapagos tortoises.
Art of the kiss
Over the past year, the critters and their keepers have collaborated on nearly 200 canvases. While a vast variety will be displayed for the opening-night festivities during the Paseo First Friday Gallery Walk, more will be swapped in as "Art Gone Wild" stays on view throughout August at a.k.a. gallery, a new venue for the exhibit.
"It's increased in popularity and awareness each year, which is great," said Henson, adding that the smaller
Donations through a candy buffet provided by 42nd
"You won't find a more popular painting to purchase than a Malee kiss. People are crazy about these," Henson said, holding up a 6-inch-by-6-inch canvas adorned with a heart-shaped dab of color, a trunk-tip imprint from the 3-year-old elephant that is learning to paint with a brush, too.
"Different animals have different levels of involvement in the process. Some of it's a thoughtful process; some of it's more of a physicality. It's all enrichment."
The projects also encourage creativity among the human keepers. Archerfish spray water onto watercolored canvases to create patterns,
"It is a partnership, and it's a friendship. It was really something to see them work together," she said. "And if some little kid is watching and it takes a stingray to encourage that child to pick up a paintbrush, then awesome."
Of all the "Art Gone Wild" contributors, the stingrays might be the most surprising. The flat-bodied fish use a special technique designed by
First, she places a plastic ball filled with bits of fish and shrimp at the bottom of the tank. Komarek anchors the ball in place with a PVC pipe that has a paint-loaded sponge strapped to the opposite end.
When the stingrays suck the food out of the ball, the motion causes the paintbrush to move across a pale blue canvas animal specialist
"They have to work for the food, so it's a little out of the ordinary for them; gives them something else to do," explains
"That was pretty cool. I'm gonna remember this," Hannah said. "I think this has been a really good visit 'cause I got to ... feed the lorikeets and now I get to see the stingrays -- and they paint."
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