Friday, December 27, 2002

CANADIAN CHIMPANZEE ARTISTS

It's no monkey business
Rescued chimps at Quebec reserve paint to while away the hours and raise money for their foundation
By Nelson Wyatt / The Canadian Press

Carignan, Que. - Tom ponders his canvas, then dips his paint brush and begins to work over the surface in broad, deliberate strokes.

He's obviously not Tom Thomson, the legendary member of Canada's painting Group of Seven. This Tom is one of the Fauna Foundation's group of six. And he's a chimp.

His monkeying around - and that of his furry friends - has created a ripple in the art world, with one exhibit of their work held in Toronto last November and another tentatively scheduled for Montreal early in the new year....

While the chimps have a happy story now, their past is more heart-rending. All except one come from labs where they were used as test animals, sent there after they grew too big to continue as cute performers in the entertainment industry or as exotic pets. The other came from a Quebec zoo.

The lab chimps have fragile immune systems and a wary nature. Tom was injected with 10,000 times the quantity of HIV it would take to give AIDS to a human but never got the virus. Pepper had 36 liver biopsies.

The animals were rescued from being warehoused by their testers when a U.S. lab closed in 1997. They were deemed to be too badly damaged to be used for further medical research....