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“Savage”–Zoo Miami’s Inaugural Art Exhibition for Animals by Animals

Although a lot of zoo stories make their way through my email inbox, I do go out hunting for unique zoo-sponsored conservation projects to highlight. This particular art exhibition for animals by animals had me salivating.

Pygmy hippo tail painting at Zoo Miami (Courtesy Zoo Miami)

It was certainly not the first time that zoo animal ambassadors were invited to participate in artistic endeavors for conservation fundraising purposes. In fact, it is fairly common for zoos to encourage their animals to play and paint with non-toxic finger paints and other safe-for-animal use and consumption artistic media.  Painting on a canvas serves as enrichment for the animals, as much as it serves as enrichment for spectators including animal keepers and patrons. And selling the art work to raise money for conservation has always made sense.

It is most fascinating to watch animals explore their artistic faculties.  Some may just be responding to scents or textures added to the paint, while others may really be expressing creative behavior.

So why did this particular event catch my attention?  The photos from press coverage were captivating, but the name of the exhibition, the venue with live music, and the collaborative effort all to fund raise for local conservation initiatives including work to save the Florida bonneted bat, made for a well-packaged fundraiser.

Thought to be extinct until 2002 when some individuals were discovered in Fort Myers, the bonneted bat is the state’s largest bat species and one of the rarest of the rare.

The Details:

On February 4th, Zoo Miami and the South Florida Chapter of the American Association of Zookeepers (SFAAZK) presented “Savage” at the Bakehouse Art Complex, the non-profit visual and educational art institution in Miami that just celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.

Miami’s Bakehouse typically caters to emerging and mid-career artists and helps cultivate some pretty impressive human talent. However, this inaugural art exhibition was for animals by animals, seemed to have quite an air of sophistication, and was all for a noble cause–wildlife conservation.

For more pictures and video footage, please check out this link to a Huffington Post article on the story.




  1. Francesca Schwarz
    Union City, N.J. 07087
    February 27, 2012, 9:02 pm

    I am the proud owner of “Pogo” the pygmy hippos art work. I bought the one that he did with his nose, and won the one he did with his glorious purple tail. Thanks for giving this exciting exhibition well deserved coverage. Kudos!

  2. Kathleen
    February 27, 2012, 1:55 pm

    Thank you for picking up this story! This was truly an amazing event, and we raised all of the funds needed to start our research on the Florida Bonneted Bat. Special thanks to our Pygmy Hippo keeper, Tabitha, for providing the picture above!