1. Twelve zoos across the country have joined the “Apps For Apes” program, experimenting with how apes interact with iPads.
According to Becky Malinsky, great ape keeper at the Smithsonian National Zoo, the iPads offer a new way to engage with apes:
“Apps for Apes fits perfectly in this new era of zoo keeping… It’s about changing up the day-to-day lives of our animals. We already vary their food, toys and social interactions every day, but the iPad offers another way to engage their sight, touch and hearing.”
3. As zookeepers learn which apps the apes prefer, the National Zoo’s app collection has grown in the past few months. The apps the orangutans use run the gamut from music-makers to brain games.
4. According to the Smithsonian’s video above, each ape has different preferences as to which apps they like to use. Which is amazing and awesome.
5. At the Toronto Zoo, zookeepers have had similar experiences, giving their apes a selection of memory and painting games. They also play YouTube videos for orangutans.
6. Aside from entertaining the apes, The Toronto Zoo is also experimenting with using apps to help the apes better communicate.
Zookeeper Matthew Berridge says apps that special-ed programs use to help autistic patients communicate might be able to bridge similar barriers with orangutans:
“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.”
8. This Al Jazeera video looks at how iPads help orangutans better express themselves, solving the problem orangutans have with communicating their complex emotions and personalities to zookeepers.
9. Because iPads are obviously very fragile and apes are obviously not very careful, app use is strictly under the guidance of a zookeeper as of right now.
10. But many zoos involved with the program are looking toward building sturdier, more ape-friendly iPad casings.
11. Interestingly enough, apes using apps isn’t particularly new. The Smithsonian National Zoo’s orangutans have used some form of touch-screen monitor since 1994 to test their cognitive abilities.
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