Move over Picasso! Blackpool Zoo is celebrating its very own star artist.
Ramon the artistic 17-year-old Bornean orangutan developed a talent for bold strokes and bright colours when he was just a youngster at Leningrad Zoo in St Petersburg in Russia.
Now he is putting his skills to the test at Blackpool Zoo, in East Park Drive, as his unique works are put to auction to commemorate Orangutan Awareness Week and help raise money for The Orangutan Foundation, which helps wild orangutans whose natural habitat has been devastated by deforestation and forest fires.
Luke Minns, Head Keeper at Blackpool Zoo, looked after Ramon as he grew from a shy teenager to a ‘fully grown male with impressive cheek pads’.
He said: “Ramon has always been a firm favourite here at Blackpool Zoo amongst visitors and staff.
“He has such a unique story and it is wonderful to see the transformation in him. He looks all grown up now.”
Ramon came to Blackpool Zoo in 2003 at the age of four, after being abandoned by his mother and hand-reared by zookeepers from when he was a baby.
He now lives in Blackpool Zoo’s ‘Orangutan Outlook’ with the group’s alpha, Vicky, and her two daughters Cherie and Summer.
The Bornean orangutans are considered highly intelligent and are able to understand a wide variety of tools - including paint brushes.
Despite this, they are classified as ‘endangered’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, with only about 40,000 remaining in their home countries of Borneo and Sumatra, in South East Asia.
But things are looking up for the orangutan population at Blackpool Zoo.
Mr Minns said: “He has been displaying behaviours typical with wanting to mate and, when he isn’t eyeing up female human beings through the glass, he is chasing the girls around the outlook.
“I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we will be welcoming some new additions to the family in the coming years.”
Ramon’s one-of-a-kind art auction will run until 12pm on November 17 and can be found on the zoo’s facebook page. People are invited to bid on the paintings with a minimum bid of £10, with the two highest bidders being offered the chance to ‘meet and greet’ Ramon and his orangutan family.