Paignton zoo gorilla N'Dowe paints gorilla sculpture

N'Dowe producing his "masterpiece"
Image caption N'Dowe's keeper said he was "inspired by the promise of grapes"

A gorilla sculpture has been painted by a nine-year-old Western lowland gorilla at Paignton Zoo.

It is part of a year-long public art project to mark the Devon zoo's 90th birthday and highlight the plight of gorillas in the wild.

More than 20 life-size sculptures have been sponsored to create "gorilla trails" in Torbay and Exeter.

N'Dowe's "masterpiece" will be used for educational purposes before being auctioned off.

The zoo said N'Dowe chose to use fingers - and occasionally lips - rather than brushes to apply the child-friendly paint and had been "inspired by the promise of grapes".

Paignton Zoo Curator of Mammals Neil Bemment said: "This might be the first gorilla sculpture ever painted by a real live gorilla."

'Eye-catching' trail

Artists who have been selected to produce the life-size sculptures will have their work displayed throughout the summer.

It is hoped to eventually have about 30 to 40 life-size silverback gorillas on the outdoor art trail, while a number of smaller indoor gorilla sculptures - like the one painted by N'Dowe - are also being produced as an education project for local schools.

The zoo said there had been an amazing response to the project and local sponsors so far included the National Trust and the University of Exeter.

It added the gorilla trail would be "dazzling, curious, eye-catching and crazy" and a map showing the location of the sculptures would be produced for people who wanted to follow the trail.

In the autumn, the life-size sculptures will be auctioned off and the money raised will be given to the Cross River Gorilla Project and a local community project.

The Cross River gorilla is the most critically endangered ape in Africa, with fewer than 300 left on the Nigeria-Cameroon border.

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