Oakland Zoo auctioning paintings by its animals

AP News
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Posted: Sep 10, 2015 10:00 PM
Oakland Zoo auctioning paintings by its animals

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An auction for 32 colorful paintings produced by elephants, giraffes, river otters and even a cockroach at the Oakland Zoo is underway with more than half a dozen bids on the art work.

Bids start at $200, and so far Thursday there are bids on works by a chimp and meerkats, an elephant and lemurs, according to eBay.

But the sun bear is leading the pack with two bids.

The painting sessions were conducted by zoo keepers who used only positive reinforcement, including plenty of treats, as they worked with the animals, zoo spokeswoman Nicky Mora said.

Elephants were helped to hold paintbrushes in their trunks and giraffes in their mouths and produced their artwork one stroke at a time. Goats, lemurs and meerkats had their hooves, paws or claws dabbed with nontoxic, water-based paint and ran over a blank sheet of poster board while chasing a treat.

Andy, a Madagascar hissing cockroach, scurried around a canvas. The result was a piece in purple, green and yellow tones.

Maggie, a Nigerian dwarf goat, had her hooves dipped in blue, green and yellow paint. The keeper coaxed her with snacks to walk on a canvas.

"It was fun for them because they got treats for participating," Mora said.

One of the zoo's giraffes, named Benghazi, seems to have a special affection for the artistic process.

"Oh, I think he loves it," lead giraffe keeper Amy Phelps said. "He definitely seems to know that the painting is his thing. When we take it out the paint brushes and the paint, he comes right over like he's excited to participate."

None of the animals was forced to take part, zoo officials said.

Last year, Oakland Zoo auctioned off twelve paintings and raised nearly $10,000.

The eBay bidding this year will end Sept. 20. The funds raised will benefit Oakland Zoo's conservation partners, who are working in the field to save wild animals, Mora said.

Some of the paintings will be exhibited starting Thursday and through Sept. 20 at The Blueprint, a tea lounge, in Oakland.