Apps for Apes brings tablets to primates

Apes have taken a liking to stimulating apps, after tablets have been incorporated into primates’ activities.

September 3, 2012
Apps for apes

Humans aren’t the only species on the planet with a penchant for electronic gadgets. Zookeepers across the United States and Canada are discovering that apes also get excited about apps.

As part of a program called Apps for Apes, 12 zoos across the two countries have been incorporating iPads into the enrichment time allotted for orangutans, the giant furry red primates native to Indonesia and Malaysia.

“We’re finding that, similar to people, they like touching the tablet, watching short videos of David Attenborough for instance, and looking at other animals and orangutans,” said Richard Zimmerman, founding director of Orangutan Outreach, the New York City-based non-profit that runs the program.

Twice weekly, orangutans are provided with access to the tablets. The animals spend from 15 minutes to a half hour using different apps depending on their attention span.

Apps geared towards children that stimulate activities such as painting, music and memory games are among the most popular apps with the apes.

At the Toronto Zoo, zookeeper Matthew Berridge uses apps such as Doodle Buddy for drawing, Montessori Counting Board and Activity Memo Pocket, a memory game, in addition to playing YouTube videos for the apes.

“It’s a lot like when we’re showing children pop-up books,” said Zimmerman, adding that the orangutans are among the most intelligent primates, with the intelligence level of a young child.

Zookeepers are also investigating how communication apps, such as those for the autistic, can help the animals to express themselves better, according to Zimmerman.

“Let’s say an orangutan has a toothache. He or she would be able to then tap on the iPad on a picture of a tooth and communicate it that way,” he explained.

One very intelligent, but armless, orangutan at the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, Florida is so intent on using the device that she uses her feet to navigate through the touchscreens.

“When you see the enjoyment and focus on their faces it’s special, especially for orangutans who are in an enclosure all day and you’re providing enrichment for them,” said Zimmerman.

Because the tablets are so fragile the zookeepers handle the apps while the animals navigate the touchscreen, but the organization is investigating creating larger, more rugged casings.

The program, which is not meant to replace physical stimulation or climbing, also aims to raise awareness about the threats orangutans face in the wild.

“We’re hoping that in that moment we can make a breakthrough with (zoo visitors] and say, ‘Listen, these are beautiful animals that are obviously curious and intelligent and not too far from us and this is what they’re dealing with in the wild,'” said Zimmerman.

Orangutans are critically endangered because of the rapid deforestation and expansion of palm oil plantations into their rainforest homes, he added.

The program, which relies on donated iPads, will soon be expanding to zoos across Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Europe.

More information about the project can be found on http://redapes.org/

Related articles

5 local apps worth noting

Pinterest introduces apps for Android, iOS

Twitter co-founders preview Medium

Simfy music streaming coming for SA: all the details

Samsung Galaxy S3 gets music service

Tags: Active, apps, Apps for apes, tablets, wildlife

Free Email Newsletter:
Subscribe

Shutterstock is the image partner of MyBroadband – technology images can be found here

Join the conversation

Connect with MyBB

twitterfacebookandroidappleblackberrynewsletterfeed

Poll

Which smartphone do you have?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

More News

What’s next for the smartphone?

Nokia X Android smartphone range

It should be no surprise to anyone that many smartphones may have been designed to last about 24 months

Online anonymity: a prized possession

Privacy

Internet use has come full circle, with anonymity becoming prized after years of personal info being shared online, writes Alistair Fairweather

Blocking Islamic State’s online propaganda – good or bad?

Information security privacy password hacking crypto

Before considering whether blocking content damages democracy – it would – instead ask who stands to gain

SABC COO to appeal court-ordered suspension

Hlaudi Motsoeneng

SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng is appealing the Western Cape High Court order on his suspension, the public broadcaster reported on Friday

Free MyBroadband Newsletter:
Subscribe
X
bool(true)