by Stephen Messenger, Porto Alegre, Brazil
For most of his 27 years, Jimmy the chimpanzee has been kept under lock and key, allowed only to dream of the world beyond the confines of his enclosure at a small zoo in Rio de Janeiro. With no companion and little to do to pass the time, Jimmy had become understandably depressed -- that is, until he discovered the joy of painting. But despite receiving national acclaim for his uncanny artistic ability, and becoming a household name in Brazil, the results of Jimmy's latest bid for a better life may add a little gloom to his palette.
If Jimmy's art leans towards the abstract, it could be for his limited exposure to the beauty of a natural landscape. From birth until age three, the chimpanzee toured with a circus troupe where he endured untold stresses at the hands of people infamously more interested in profits than the humane treatment of their animals. And Jimmy isn't the only one with a difficult past; Several residents at the zoo where Jimmy lives were found abandoned by bankrupt circus owners.
For the last 10 years, Jimmy has lived by himself in an enclosure at the poorly funded Niteroi zoo, in Rio de Janeiro. Despite the economic hardships, his keepers did their best to keep his spirits up offering games, sugary snacks, and even a TV to the chimp -- but none of these things could cure Jimmy's loneliness and depression quite like one particular pastime. Six months ago, his trainer brought him a canvas, a few brushes, and some paints -- allowing Jimmy to discover his love of painting. And, boy, can he paint... read more story at TreeHugger.com