PAINTING LESSONS FOR BIG PANDAS IN THE MOSCOW ZOO

27.12.2019
Bamboo bears Dindin and Zhui, who arrived in the capital from China in late spring, began to learn painting. Specialized trainings, which involve art canvases, paints and brushes, are held with pandas twice a week. Animals are very curious and enthusiastic about this new activity. In the future, their paintings will be collected in a separate exhibition, which every guest of the zoo will be able to visit. It is also planned to hold a special charity auction, and the funds received from the sale of paintings will be used for the maintenance of rescued and confiscated animals. 

Drawing is widely used in zoo practice as one of the effective ways of behavioral and psychological enrichment of the environment. Typically, anthropoid apes, pinnipeds, elephants and some members of the bear family show interest in the "fine arts". Such trainings are very useful for zoo inhabitants and can significantly improve their quality of life. The practice of drawing in working with pandas is used in a number of European zoos, as well as in the homeland of these unique animals - in China.

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Classes in painting with Dindin and Zhui was preceded by a small, but rather laborious preparation. First, the pandas had to be taught to hold a brush (both right and left) with the paw. This was possible thanks to the positive reinforcement in the form of juicy carrots and special panda cakes. When pandas took brushes in their paws and held them confidently, zoologists immediately gave them treats. Thanks to this, the bears quickly realized what was required of them, and began to use their brushes actively. The next step was to get acquainted with the canvas and paints. In order for animals to calmly accept these new items, the keepers simply demonstrated them at first. Special eco-friendly paints were selected for the trainings, which are approved for use by children of the youngest age and absolutely non-toxic. But the zoo employees put the brush inside the hollow bamboo stalk: it’s more convenient for pandas to hold a new “weapon” in their paws.

Drawing training takes place in a special room - in the same place as veterinary trainings. Zhui and Dindin willingly go there at the call of the staff caring for them and, seeing the canvas, brushes and paints, immediately settle down near the grate and extend their paw forward. On command, the panda gets a brush with paint in its paw and begins to drive it along the surface of the canvas. So far, the style in which panda artists work can be described as abstractionism with elements of avant-garde. Of course, Dindin and Zhui are still a long way off from Jackson Pollock and Gerhard Richter. However, their enthusiasm for teaching painting is truly impressive.

“Giant pandas, contrary to a common stereotype, are very active animals. They need a lot of payload - both physical and intellectual. If the bears do not get it, then they begin to get bored and lazy. To prevent this from happening, our experts regularly conduct trainings with Dindin and Zhui; give pandas a lot of intricate toys and items to study. Drawing is also one of the areas of training. During these classes, pandas learn to concentrate and fulfill the requests of their keeper,” - Moscow Zoo CEO Svetlana Akulova said.

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In the future, the works created by Dindin and Zhui will be collected in a separate exhibition. Every visitor of the zoo can enjoy the panda painting. In addition, it is planned that the paintings of bamboo bears will be used for various charity events. Some of the works will go to the homeland of pandas as souvenirs.