Orangutan paints non-fungible digital signs for conservation

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Primates are making art in Oklahoma City—and it’s going digital. Elok is a 21-year-old orangutan known for his physical artworks, having painted several works while at the Oklahoma City Zoo. But his art is now entering a new world – that of NFTs. “To be honest, I think he’s doing pretty well in sales,” said Rebecca Snyder, the zoo’s director of conservation. “He can paint with a canvas and paints and a brush, so he’s one of our animals who really likes to paint in the beginning because it ticks all the boxes for him. He really likes manipulating the tools.” He recently made the transition to non-fungible tokens, also known as NFTS — unique digital files that can sell for a few dollars or a few million in some cases. “I have a friend who did digital art as an enrichment project with an orangutan for her master’s thesis,” said Tracey Dolphin, the zoo’s primate curator. She said her friend realized the art could be turned into NFTs and used to raise money for conservation. The transition from physical to digital takes some getting used to. “When we gave him the modified brush he wasn’t quite sure what to do with it and so he could see the screen facing him, he could see his movements being tracked and something was happening on the screen but he had to make the connection,” Snyder said. The zoo hopes the uniqueness of Elok’s NFT will only make it more appetizing to interested buyers. “As far as we know, this is the first time an animal’s digital art has been converted into an NFT,” Dolphin said. Elok’s NFT will be auctioned Friday midday.

Primates are making art in Oklahoma City—and it’s going digital.

Elok is a 21-year-old orangutan known for his physical artworks, having painted several works while at the Oklahoma City Zoo.

But his art is now entering a new world – that of NFTs.

“To be honest, I think he’s doing pretty well in sales,” said Rebecca Snyder, the zoo’s director of conservation. “He can paint with a canvas and paints and a brush, so he’s one of our animals who really likes to paint in the beginning because it ticks all the boxes for him. He really likes manipulating the tools.”

Recently, it made the transition to non-fungible tokens, also known as NFTS — unique digital files that can sell for a few dollars or a few million in some cases.

“I have a friend who did digital art as an enrichment project with an orangutan for her master’s thesis,” said Tracey Dolphin, the zoo’s primate curator. She said her friend realized the art could be turned into NFTs and used to raise money for conservation.

The transition from physical to digital took some getting used to.

“When we gave him the modified brush he wasn’t quite sure what to do with it and so he could see the screen facing him, he could see his movements being tracked and something was happening on the screen but he had to make the connection,” Snyder said.

The zoo hopes the uniqueness of Elok’s NFT will only make it more appetizing to interested buyers.

“As far as we know, this is the first time an animal has created digital art that has been converted into an NFT,” Dolphin said.

Elok’s NFT will be auctioned on Friday afternoon.

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