Chimp Haven in Keithville has lost a beloved chimpanzee. The sanctuary's beloved artist, Brent, has died.

President and CEO Cathy Spraetz told KEEL News while it's something the staff comes to expect when these chimpanzees are brought in, it's never easy when one of them passes on.

"Because we're a retirement sanctuary, most of these chimpanzees that come to us are already up in years. And so we anticipate that we're going to lose a number of chimpanzees every year," Spraetz said. "Brent's death was pretty hard for us to take. He was just such a unique chimpanzee, as all of our chimpanzees are. But Brent had some unique gifts and talents and was such a great boy, and we just really think of him very fondly, and are mourning his loss."

The 38-year-old chimpanzee brought the sanctuary fame when he won first prize in the Humane Society of the Unites States Chimpanzee Art Contest last year. It was his unorthodox method of painting that garnered him so much attention.

"One of the things that was so interesting about Brent - he loved to paint, but he would use his tongue only. He didn't use a brush. And it made beautiful pieces of art," said Spraetz. "In fact, one of his pieces is hanging in an international gallery in Florida."

Spraetz tells us sanctuary officials are comforted knowing he was able to spend his last years with people who loved him. "I just cannot say enough about the care staff that lovingly care for all of our chimpanzees, including Brent," said Spraetz. "When Brent came to us, he had been singly-housed. And very soon after he came to Chimp Haven in 2006, he was integrated into a social group with just a few chimpanzees to begin with. And when he left us, he was in a group of about eight or nine chimpanzees and had really blossomed, and was fun-loving."

And he was also very intelligent. Spraetz says she remembers one instance where one of Chimp Haven's board members, who worked with Brent, came to Chimp Haven after not seeing him for several years, and Brent knew right away who he was.

Spraetz says the average life span for a chimpanzee in captivity is around 60. But male chimpanzees are more at risk for any kind of heart problem. Chimp Haven veterinarians say it appears that Brent died of advanced heart disease.

Sanctuary workers will be holding a private memorial for Brent in their Memorial Garden at Chimp Haven. We pass on our condolences for their loss.

Chimp Haven Chimpanzee Puts Tongue To Canvas To Win $10,000 In Art Contest

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