“Just like humans, orangutans like options,” the Orangutan Outreach program wrote. Like us, they get bored and depressed without mental stimulation and choice. And just as we have become used to tapping away on our various devices to stay entertained in line or on the train, Orangutan Outreach thinks iPads will help improve captive orangutans’ quality of life.
So, they launched “Apps for Apes,” a program now employed by over 12 zoos around the world. Most recently, the Smithsonian Zoo in Washington, D.C. brought the interactive touchscreens to their orangutans.
In an announcement on the new program, the Smithsonian reported, “With the tap of a finger, keepers are introducing the Zoo’s six orangutans to iPads, which provide unique stimuli. They found that 36-year-old Bonnie likes to bang on the drums, 16-year-old Kyle prefers the piano and 25-year-old Iris is content to listen to the soothing sounds of the koi pond while watching animated fish splash.”
In addition to interacting with many children’s apps, the orangutans are also apparently “fond of nature documentaries by David Attenborough, the popular British broadcaster and naturalist of Planet Earth renown.” And with iPad 2s, apes in different zoos have been able to communicate with one another. Because iPads provide a variety of stimuli, it only takes one device for each animal to find what fits them best.
Orangutan Outreach hopes that, while the zoo apes explore new activities via their iPads, they will help publicize the plight of their fellow creatures across the world. Richard Zimmerman, founding director of the organization, told Time magazine, “”It is cute and fun watching them tapping on the iPad, but what is happening to them in the wild is actually horrific. This is a grand opportunity for these orangutans to be ambassadors for their cousins in the wild.”