Joining several zoos experimenting with computers and apes, a Miami zoo is letting its six orangutans use an iPad to communicate as part of a mental stimulus program to keep them from getting bored or depressed.
Orangutans are extremely intelligent but limited by their physical inability to talk. The devices help them communicate with humans who don’t know their sign language, but they also provide fun and enrichment, especially favorite apps like DrawFree and Flick Kick Football.
At the Milwaukee County Zoo, the two orangutans really love the interactive book The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore, according a story in Kotaku. “They will sit for about 20 minutes, listening to the story,” said Richard Zimmerman, executive director of Orangutan Outreach, which has extended Milwaukee’s iPad enrichment program to zoos around the country.
Zimmerman thinks it’s possible that zoo visitors could download the same apps and play with and against the primates with their own iPhones and iPads.
As with humans, the younger apes are eager to play on the new devices and adjust easily. The older ones, not so much, according to the AP story this week.