SEATTLE - The conversations coming from behind the glass at Seattle s Woodland Park Zoo summed up how surprised people were to see that it was happening.
Oh my gosh, one little girl said. What is that? He s going to paint?
It s because there s an unlikely artist here: Towan, a 46-year-old Orangutan, will pick his favorite color for the day and start scratching away at a canvas.
It's enrichment for them, said Laura McComesky, a zookeeper. They are extremely intelligent and each day we try to find ways to enrich their lives to make it the best possible day it can be for them. He's just really fun to watch and I really enjoy how inspired he gets and really engrossed in his work.
Towan started painting another work of art Wednesday. It ll be raffled off for free at Woodland Park Zoo s Asian Wildlife Conservation Day this weekend in an effort to create awareness including education about the use of palm oil, which is posing a threat to orangutans natural habitat.
Just people taking the time to learn - not realizing that perhaps their favorite cookie or their favorite beauty product is having a direct impact on them and whether or not they'll be around for people's grandchildren to enjoy in the wild, McComesky said. You can look for a label that says RSPO, which is the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil. That means that company has made a promise to only purchase sustainable palm oil.
Towan s other pieces have auctioned off for as much as $1,000 at the zoo s annual Jungle Party fundraiser.
He's an ambassador to his cousins in the wild and hopefully people will be inspired and will want to learn and take action in their personal life with their consumer choices, McComesky said. One person can make a difference.
For more information on Asian Wildlife Conservation Day, visit Woodland Park Zoo's website.