Mother and son orangutans at the Toronto Zoo are loving their new iPads; playing games, watching videos and even using Skype with other orangutans.
The Toronto Star says the Toronto Zoo is the only Canadian zoo, but one of 12 facilities around the world, taking part in the Apps for Apes program using technology to entertain orangutans in captivity.
In March, Puppe and Budi were introduced to their iPads that they now use to play memory and painting games, Skyping with other orangutans taking part in the program, and zoo keeper Matthew Berridge tells The Star their favorite is watching videos. “They really like watching the videos of natural things, so maybe that’s why they’re so transfixed on it.”
Berridge says right now the humans are deciding what the pair will do with their iPads but is hoping that will change soon. He tells The Star, “We make all their choices for them, and for an intelligent animal they should have some more opportunities to make choices themselves.”
But they had to first figure out how to use it. Global Toronto says since their first inclination is to try to eat or break the device, they are only able to touch the screen through a cage. But The Toronto Star says that also caused some problems. They may be the smartest of all apes, comparable to a 3 1/2 year old human child, they are not the same anatomically. Berridge says orangutans have fingernails that curl over the tips of their fingers so the touch-screen wasn't responding. “They were touching (the iPad) correctly, but nothing was happening on the screen,” so they were taught to use their knuckles, fingertips, toes, and even their lips and tongues to touch the screen.
Newstalk1010 reports the zoo received a donated iPad from Orangutan Outreach, behind the Apps for Apes program. And zoo staff have been working with an animal behaviour expert at York University to figure out the best primate-friendly apps.