Quantcast

Stunning Paintings Send Strong Message on Need to Protect Primates

Popular
Photo of Robin Huffman's painting Nunu by Cassie Kelly

The Explorers Club in New York City was covered with portraits of primates on May 10, in the first art exhibit the club has ever hosted in its 113 years. The show featured artist Robin Huffman who was honored Wednesday evening for her work in environmental conservation.


The exhibit, Witness, displayed the many monkeys and apes that Huffman has cared for during her time at animal sanctuaries around the world. Huffman told EcoWatch that these animals deserve to live freely just like we do and to make that happen, we must be their voice.

Huffman spoke at The Explorer's Club on May 10. Cassie Kelly

"This is the first gallery we've ever done and we've done it in part because her work is downsizing a global issue," said Will Roseman, executive director of The Explorers Club. "Witness is the perfect name for it because it's forcing us to witness what we've done to these beautiful creatures."

Huffman has not always been a painter, in fact, she used to be an interior designer in New York where she lived a lavish life of cocktail parties and schmoozing with corporate executives. But, about 10 years ago, Huffman found her true purpose, which she said was to help primates.

"I went to look at gorillas on a volunteer vacation. I was studying them, and then I fell in love with them," she said. "Suddenly my career of thirty years, with a great income and a condo, just didn't matter."

Huffman ditched her high-rise apartment overlooking the city and headed for Cameroon, where she worked at a sanctuary for several months. "Now, I refer to my life as BP and AP, before primates and after," she explained.

She began collecting the monkey's stories, photographing them and later painting them.

This is Zero Zero, a mustached guenon, who arrived at the sanctuary after being orphaned, sick and injured. After four days of care and attention—he loved mangos and leaves—Zero Zero fell ill and died.

Zero Zero arrived at Ape Action Africa sanctuary in Cameroon with just days left to live. Cassie Kelly

"I was still grieving five years later, thinking about the brief life of that innocent animal," she said. "Then, somebody said 'you should paint his picture, tell his story,' and I did it as a way to get over the sadness and pay tribute."

Since beginning to paint, Huffman has created dozens of portraits. She often works out of friends' homes or anywhere she is welcome.

"I've even painted in the corridor of the storage facility where I hold my work," she said. "I sold my home to be able to budget and afford going to Cameroon and pay to volunteer at the sanctuaries. My ideas of what is important changed a lot. Things that were unimportant felt like unwanted weight."

Huffman alongside her portrait of Kecksie, a vervet monkey. Cassie Kelly

Huffman said her life has a calling now. She wants to educate others about the exotic pet trade, horrendous conditions for animals in captivity, poaching and overall conservation efforts that can give these animals their habitat back.

For example, this is Rocky, she was put on display as a spectacle for 10 years with a chain around her neck, which was attached to a metal cart. She now has poor vision from the harsh sun and is very small for a full grown female chimp due to malnutrition.

Rocky is a chimp, timid and shy, but has a heart of gold. Cassie Kelly

"It's about animal welfare, but also about conservation and preserving a species," she said. "It's about respecting the individual and realizing they have as much of a right to live as we do."

Frida, a patas monkey, was also at the Ape Action center where she gorged herself on scrambled eggs. Cassie Kelly

"It'd be a better world if there didn't have to be sanctuaries, but for now they do have to exist," she concluded.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

New pine trees grow from the forest floor along the North Fork of the Flathead River on the western boundary of Glacier National Park on Sept. 16, 2019 near West Glacier, Montana. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

By Alex Kirby

New forests are an apparently promising way to tackle global heating: the trees absorb carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from human activities. But there's a snag, because permanently lower river flows can be an unintended consequence.

Read More
Household actions lead to changes in collective behavior and are an essential part of social movements. Pixabay / Pexels

By Greg McDermid, Joule A Bergerson, Sheri Madigan

Hidden among all of the troubling environmental headlines from 2019 — and let's face it, there were plenty — was one encouraging sign: the world is waking up to the reality of climate change.

So now what?

Read More
Sponsored
Logging state in the U.S. is seen representing some of the consequences humans will face in the absence of concrete action to stop deforestation, pollution and the climate crisis. Mark Newman / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images

Talk is cheap, says the acting executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, who begged governments around the world to make sure that 2020 is not another year of conferences and empty promises, but instead is the year to take decisive action to stop the mass extinction of wildlife and the destruction of habitat-sustaining ecosystems, as The Guardian reported.

Read More
The people of Kiribati have been under pressure to relocate due to sea level rise. A young woman wades through the salty sea water that flooded her way home on Sept. 29, 2015. Jonas Gratzer / LightRocket via Getty Images

Refugees fleeing the impending effects of the climate crisis cannot be forced to return home, according to a new decision by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, as CNN reported. The new decision could open up a massive wave of legal claims by displaced people around the world.

Read More
The first day of the Strike WEF march on Davos on Jan. 18, 2020 near Davos, Switzerland. The activists want climate justice and think the WEF is for the world's richest and political elite only. Kristian Buus / In Pictures via Getty Images

By Ashutosh Pandey

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg is returning to the Swiss ski resort of Davos for the 2020 World Economic Forum with a strong and clear message: put an end to the fossil fuel "madness."

Read More