These Venomous Snakes Are Now Artists, and Yes You Can Buy Their Work

A zoo has started utilizing the talent of some of its residents to create one-of-a-kind items to sell in the gift shop.

Kentucky Reptile Zoo offers custom paintings by several reptile artists that live at their establishment.

"We saw other animals, such as elephants and pigs, making art and thought it was awesome," Kristen Wiley from Kentucky Reptile Zoo told Newsweek. "Snakes are beautiful and move in very interesting ways, so we thought why not give it a try?"

Artists include rattlesnakes, cobras, vipers and even the resident king cobra, Puppy. The team allows the snakes to let creative juices flow and create pictures that can be purchased by zoo-goers and supporters.

Reptile art work
Kentucky Reptile Zoo has begun offering artworks created by their residents priced from $30. Two of the masterpieces and their artists are shown above. Kentucky Reptile Zoo

"Making art is something many of them can do," said Wiley. "As long as we have enough room to allow them to move around safely and help get them clean afterward."

The team applies paint to canvases and allows the snakes to move through as they wish, leaving patterns and shapes in their wake.

"Sometimes they prefer to move around a lot," said Wiley. "This type of expression creates the swirls and larger 'scale-strokes' that can be seen on some paintings. Others prefer to move more slowly and deliberately, and usually, these canvases will show more distinct 'scale-prints' that some people really love to see."

What Animals Make Art?

Animal-made artwork is adorable to watch as it is created, and creates a one-of-a-kind piece for art lovers, although snakes are far from the only animals to have an artistic streak.

In 2017, Asian elephant Sandra's abstract works went to auction for $150 each after she created them at a circus in Hungary.

More recently, a black bear named Fern who lives in a Washington zoo created a masterpiece on the floor of her enclosure.

Other animals that are known to make art include pigs, primates, dolphins, rabbits and donkeys.

Snake painting
A picture of one of the snakes from Kentucky Reptile Zoo with his painting. The paintings at the Kentucky Reptile Zoo are a big hit among patrons. Kentucky Reptile Zoo

Who Owns the Copyright?

The topic of copyright and animal artwork often sparks debate. While the copyright for artistic work is typically held by the creator, copyrights can only be held by legal persons, which an animal is not.

The question of ownership of the copyright for works created by animals became a high-profile discussion in 2014 when a series of disputes took place surrounding a selfie taken by a monkey.

British nature photographer David Slater claimed copyright after his equipment was used to take the picture, but animal rights group PETA argued that the macaque who took the picture should hold the copyright.

In August 2014, the United States Copyright Office clarified their rules to explicitly state that works created by a non-human cannot be copyrighted, and lists in their examples a "photograph taken by a monkey," referencing the case.

The paintings created by snakes at Kentucky Reptile Zoo are a big hit, and available to purchase from $30.

"Kentucky Reptile Zoo is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization so funds help to pay for animal care and feeding, as well as support our educational outreach work," said Wiley. "KRZ also provides venoms for biomedical research, that could contribute to potential treatments for various diseases, so extra funds also go to support this work."

As the artists become more well-known, Wiley explained that demand for the paintings is increasing: "People love having the opportunity to have custom color combinations, and to have their artist of choice create something unique for them," she said.

Using only water-based and non-toxic paints, the artists are easily cleaned after creating their masterpieces so that they leave each session completely clean.

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