Although orangutans are our most distant great ape relation, we still have a great deal in common with our larger, hairy, orange kin. Nowhere is this more evident than in an orangutan’s rudimentary tool usage or in their love of tablets. Yes, you read that correctly: orangutans enjoy iPads.
This discovery came about when great ape keepers at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington D.C. were searching for a way to provide variety and enrichment to the daily lives of their six orangutan charges. After turning to Orangutan Outreach and the aptly named Apps for Apes program, they decided to give iPads a go.
The reaction of the six orangutans was immensely positive. A blog post on the National Zoo’s website noted that Bonnie (a 36-year-old orangutan) liked playing on a virtual drumpad while Kyle (16-years-old) preferred a piano App. The pensive Iris (25-years old), by contrast, enjoyed watching animated fish splash about in a koi pond.
Koko’s Kitten isn’t so impressive now, is she?
They’re still a long way from three-starring levels on Angry Birds, but the zoo’s orangutans are old hands at touchscreen interfacing. Since 1994, the National Zoo has used touchscreen monitors as part of a cognitive study that tests their memory, tool usage, and social learning.
If you have an old iPad lying around and fancy donating it to science, the orangutans (and their keepers) at the National Zoo will gladly put your slate to a happy, hairy, new home.