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Houston Zoo animals paint pictures — no, really — to help their endangered orangutan friends

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Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Indah-Lazy_Infinite_16_x_20_framed
Indah, Lazy Infinite, 16 by 20 inches framed. Photo courtesy of Houston Zoo
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Indah-TBuhrmester crop
Indah, orangutan, female, born Jan. 15. Photo by © Tammy Buhrmester/Houston Zoo
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Shanti-Dancing_Willows_16_x_20_framed
Shanti, Dancing Willows, 16 by 20 inches framed. Photo courtesy of Houston Zoo
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Shanti-Fluorescent_Rays_16_x_20_framed
Shanti, Fluorescent Rays, 16 by 20 inches framed. Photo courtesy of Houston Zoo
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Baby_Elephant_Duncan
Shanti (shown here with baby Duncan), Asian elephant, female, born Nov. 11, 1990. Photo by © Stephanie Adams/Houston Zoo
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Remley-Field_of_Poppies_16_x_20_framed
Remley, Field of Poppies, 16 by 20 inches framed. Photo courtesy of Houston Zoo
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Remley Babirusa-0066
Remley, babirusa, female, born March 24, 2005. Photo courtesy of Houston Zoo
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Rudi-Bloo_s_Clues_16_x_20_framed
Rudi, Bloo' s Clues, 16 by 20 inches framed. Photo courtesy of Houston Zoo
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Rudi-TBuhrmester
Rudi, orangutan, male, born Dec. 19, 1977. Photo by © Tammy Buhrmester/Houston Zoo
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Kelly-Elfatar_16_x_20_framed
Kelly, Elfatar, 16 by 20 inches framed. Photo courtesy of Houston Zoo
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Kelly
Kelly, orangutan, female, born Sept. 22, 1980. Photo courtesy of Houston Zoo
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Siamangs-_Apricot_Afternoon_11_x_14_framed
Siamangs, Apricot Afternoon, 11 by 14 inches framed. Photo courtesy of Houston Zoo
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Siamang-0006-5636
A local siamang representative, as the whole troop had a hand in painting. Photo courtesy of Houston Zoo
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Cheyenne-Startled_Flock_16_x_20_framed
Cheyenne, Startled Flock, 16 by 20 inches framed. Photo courtesy of Houston Zoo
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Cheyenne
Cheyenne, orangutan, female, born May 13, 1972. Photo courtesy of Houston Zoo
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Indah-Lazy_Infinite_16_x_20_framed
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Indah-TBuhrmester crop
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Shanti-Dancing_Willows_16_x_20_framed
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Shanti-Fluorescent_Rays_16_x_20_framed
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Baby_Elephant_Duncan
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Remley-Field_of_Poppies_16_x_20_framed
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Remley Babirusa-0066
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Rudi-Bloo_s_Clues_16_x_20_framed
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Rudi-TBuhrmester
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Kelly-Elfatar_16_x_20_framed
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Kelly
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Siamangs-_Apricot_Afternoon_11_x_14_framed
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Siamang-0006-5636
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Cheyenne-Startled_Flock_16_x_20_framed
Houston Zoo exhibit paintings by elephants and orangutans April 2014 Cheyenne

Some very talented artists are ready for a biennial art show at the Houston Zoo, only after much preparation, concentration and hard work.

And they're not members of the staff.

Artists-in-residence orangutans, elephants, siamangs and babirusas present their masterpieces from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the zoo for the 10th fundraising exhibition, "Pongos Helping Pongos: Art by Orangutans, for Orangutans." For a $10 donation, art collectors — and animal lovers — can bid on very original artwork during the silent auction.

All the proceeds are donated to help save wild orangutans in their endangered natural habitats. Since 2004, the zoo has hosted five "Pongos Helping Pongos" events every two years, raising more than $200,000 for conservation efforts in southeast Asia.

"Pongo" is the genus for orangutans, which are found on only two islands in the world.

The local artists used natural tools and even their hooves and fingers to create the paintings, an exercise providing the animals with an outlet to express their intelligence, personalities and abilities.

"Elephants paint by holding a brush with the end of their trunks," says Brian Hill, public relations director for the Houston Zoo. "Sometimes keepers will have them press the end of their trunks on the paint pallets and then press the end of their trunks on the canvas so you get that heart shapes of the end of their trunks on the canvas."

Hill says orangutans use ginger leaves or bamboo leaves or their hands. "It’s usually the young orangutans who like to finger paint," he says.

"And Remley (a babirusa) paints by walking through paint that keepers have put on a heavy brown paper and then walks on to the canvas," he adds. "Really a stunning result, when you consider the technique."

Take a look at our slideshow preview of the auction — artists' profiles included.

Got a great photo of a Houston happening or everyday occurrence? Send it to barbara@culturemap.com, along with details (who, what, where and why it's special). It might make our Pix of the Day.

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