Monday, April 09, 2012

Orangutans to engage in 'play dates' using iPads

It's been nearly a year since the Milwaukee, Wisconsin county zoo introduced iPads to the primate building as a form of "enrichment." Successful as it has been the zoo is now going to rewire the building for wi-fi so that the orangutans can use their iPads to do what humans have been doing since the device was introduced in 2010: communicate with each other.

It's not what you're thinking; these primates are not going to instant message with other primates. However, they are going to have "play dates" with orangutans at other zoos and wildlife preserves.

With the wi-fi, zoo visitors will be able to watch the orangutans on a webcam, as well.

Zookeepers have noticed that their orangutans are enraptured by videos of other orangutans they’ve viewed on the iPad. Hopes are that a live video feed will be even more fascinating to the primates.

Rhe zoo’s primate coordinator, Trish Kahn, said, “We’re excited to see where that goes. It could be they don’t care at all, but, from what I understand of them, I think they’re definitely going to be able to understand this is real time and they’re looking at another orangutan."

The orangutans seem to have an uncanny ability to use the iPad, and are extremely good with the touchscreens. Several other zoos have also introduced tablets to their primates with the assistance of the non-profit organization Orangutan Outreach, which launched the "Apps for Apes" campaign after seeing the success of the Milwaukee zoo.

Orangutans need constant stimulation, something the iPads help provide. Without it, they become bored and depressed.

Watch a video below of the Milwaukee Zoo orangutans using their iPads.

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