Panbanisha is a prolific painter whose works have sold for hundreds of dollars. She also happens to be a bonobo, one of many apes learning language skills at the Great Ape Trust. To raise money for ape conservation work, the Trust is auctioning off paintings created by Panbanisha and the other ape artists-in-residence. Click through to see a gallery of primate paintings and watch the bonobo’s creative process.Researchers study apes living at the Trust to learn more about their intellect, behavior, and capacity for communication. Bonobo siblings Panbanisha and Kanzi have a rather advanced capacity for language, able to understand human speech, comprehend abstract concepts, and communicate with humans through a lexigram keyboard. Apes are given the choice as to whether to participate in activities like painting, but the researchers have found that the apes perceive the experience as fulfilling, allowing them to convey thoughts, senses, and memories without the limitations of verbal language.

“The apes’ daily lives are enriched immeasurably by these creative opportunities,” [project overseer Peter] Clay said. “Choosing canvases and colors, and choosing to make small, careful marks or big dramatic ones, these are all within their control.

In the Apes Helping Apes project, the Trust sells the apes’ painting, some created in collaboration with artist Sue Buck, to support ape conservation in the wild. The above painting by Panbanisha is currently up for auction online.

[Great Ape Trust via New Scientist]