A young gorilla at a Devon zoo has hand-painted a gorilla sculpture.

The 9-year-old Western lowland gorilla named N’Dowe (pronounced Endovay) was given the chance to express his creativity by keepers at Paignton Zoo.

The result is a unique piece of three-dimensional art that will be auctioned to raise money for gorilla conservation. Paignton Zoo Curator of Mammals Neil Bemment said: “This might be the first gorilla sculpture ever painted by a real live gorilla!”

Paignton Zoo, a registered charity, is celebrating its 90th birthday with The Great Gorilla Project (www.greatgorillas.org.uk), a year-long public engagement and community art event. Life-size fibre glass gorilla sculptures are being sponsored by businesses and community groups, painted in original designs by specially-commissioned artists and displayed in public, creating a unique art trail around Torbay and Exeter.

The model painted by N’Dowe stands at 38cm tall and 76cm long. Child-friendly paint was used, but N’Dowe rejected brushes in favour of fingers and occasionally his lips. Senior keeper Craig Gilchrist said: “He was inspired by the promise of grapes!”

Artists across the country will be starting work on their own Great Gorillas in the next few weeks.

It’s not the first time N’Dowe has tried his hand at art. In 2011 he produced several canvases that were auctioned to raise money for gorilla conservation.

Paignton Zoo is home to six male lowland gorillas - 30 year old Pertinax, and Kivu who are 10; and N’Dowe and Matadi who are both 9. Kumbuka, a 15 year-old silver back, is due to move to a new breeding group at London Zoo in the near future.

Quotes Zootastic Paignton! Quotes