Kids Saving the Rainforest

Primate Art Enrichment

 Primate art enrichmentBy Biologist Pedro

Some primates are incredibly intelligent and need enrichment for their well-being. KSTR’s biologist, Pedro came up with amazing enrichment for them. Here is his story:

From cave paintings to Banksy, painting has almost always being considered a human´s art; but when you take the white canvas and vibrant paint that served as the starting point for the great painters (Picasso, Van Gogh, etc.), and give them to the white faced monkeys, (capuchins), Georgia, Hector, and Hugo at the KSTR sanctuary you get art too! Armed with the strongest paper we could buy, and non-toxic paint, we went inside the painters cage!
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We prepared the supplies, and even though an artsy beret for the monkeys was suggested; it was immediately discarded as impractical. As we approached the monkeys, they seemed curious by our setup so we decided that the best way to approach the exercise was to provide a basic layout on the canvas: lines, dots, puddles, and then the primates could scratch the paint and create their masterpieces. I approached the cage holding a clipboard with the paper decorated with a few lines of red, blue and yellow, it was Georgia the first one to extend her hand towards the clipboard; we were seconds away from answering the question, what would the monkeys do with this new window of expression? What shapes and forms would come out from the depths of their souls and be portrayed on the canvas? The answer came seconds later… with a squeal. They ate it, they stole the paper, ripped it apart, and ate the paint!

Having learned a valuable lesson we left to regroup, we knew it was possible, since lots of other animal species are known to paint, plus we weren’t doing this for our amusement, the idea started as a part of the enrichment program at the center; this program is designed to stimulate and entertain all of the animals at the sanctuary. The force behind the program is that the primates found in the sanctuary are lacking the challenges and trials that their counterparts face in the wild in order to survive; and consequently they can get a little bored. To avoid this issue, (as it can lead to psychological problems), we are constantly trying new ways of enrichment, including hiding their food in different parts of the cage, toys for them to play, painting, and more.

Our second attempt had better results, we switched to an edible paint made from natural ingredients, and taped the paper to the clipboard. The monkeys were free to eat the paint, and while doing so, they would drag their fingers through the paper creating the masterpieces! They look forward to the activity and it has enriched their lives! So now the paintings are on display at the KSTR Primate Art Gallery at the KSTR store. People who take the Wildlife Sanctuary tour can purchase this artwork from our local artists. Take a tour for yourself and see! All money collected from the tours goes to the care of the wildlife. For more tour info, contact Vernita at [email protected]