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article imageTech-savvy orangutans at Miami Zoo use iPad to communicate

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By Pratidnya Bhat     Jun 13, 2012 in Odd News
Miami - An orangutan clan at the Miami Zoo shows amazing interest in iPad and the family's teenagers just can't have enough of it, while the elders show no interest at all.
The iPad is by far, the most adored tablet in the human world. But what we may not know is that members of the animal kingdom dig into it too, particularly a clan of six orangutans at the Miami Zoo.
The orangutans at Miami's Jungle Island are very much like humans when it comes to technology. The zoo is one of the many, experimenting with computers and apes. This led to an amazing discovery of six orangutans who were head-over-heels in love with the gadget and started using it regularly. They draw, play games and expand their vocabulary when the zoo officials use iPad to communicate with them, as a part of a mental stimulus program.
Linda Jacobs, supervisor of the program hopes to bridge the gap between endangered apes and humans using such devices.
"Our young ones pick up on it. They understand it. It's like, 'Oh, I get this,'" Jacobs said. "Our two older ones, they just are not interested. I think they just figure, 'I've gotten along just fine in this world without this communication-skill here and the iPad, and I don't need a computer"', reported Fox News.
According to The Associated Press, Jacobs said, she got inspired to use iPad with orangutans last summer, when someone who had used the same device with dolphins, suggested her to do the same.
The zoo trainers already communicate very well with the apes using sign language. The animals respond by pointing with their fingers, identifying objects and also express their wants or needs. Jacobs said, using iPad has taken them one step further to understand and communicate with orangutans, further describing the apes as extremely intelligent but limited by their physical inability to talk.
Initially, the orangutans were just shown the iPad to desensitize them. Next the trainers asked them to touch the iPad without pulling it into the cage. “They catch on so quickly, it wasn’t long before we started showing them pictures and identifying different objects with them,” Jacobs said. The trainer names one of the objects and the ape points and presses the corresponding button.This software was primarily developed to help people with autism.
Despite the advancement made with orangutans using iPads, there are certain limitations. These devices are delicate and have small screens that pose a problem to the large ape fingers. Hence trainers have to hold the tablets.
Jacobs is now hoping to get more durable and large "orangutan-proof screens" in the future so the public could correspond with the apes.
"It's really just a matter of getting the technology and equipment here," Jacobs said. "There's not a doubt in my mind that they could do it and would be marvelous at it, and I think the public would absolutely love it."
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