Apple and Orangutans: Apes Found to be Enamored with iPads

A orangutan conservation charity has launched a program called Apps for Apes, letting orangutans play with iPads in a bid to raise awareness about their plight

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Orangutan Outreach / Scott Engel

MJ Mahal does a bit of finger painting at Milwaukee County Zoo

The comparisons between orangutans and humans are undeniable and multifaceted – they can recognize themselves in a mirror, they have hairlines (that recede, just like ours), they share 97% of our genetic code, and the males tend to be sociable only during mating (we kid). And now, zookeepers across the U.S. and Canada have discovered, both species share a technological fascination, too. For orangutans, playing with iPad apps appears to be as popular among the apes as it is with humans.

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As part of a program called Apps for Apes, launched by New York based not-for-profit Orangutan Outreach, 12 zoos across North America have incorporated playing on donated iPads as part of the orangutans’ mental enrichment time.

The animals spend anywhere between five minutes to half an hour playing on the tablets, which are held by the zookeepers. (Just like humans, the orangutans have a tendency to smash the screen.) Apps created for children tend to be the most popular, including finger-painting and drum apps. The apes are also said to be fond of nature documentaries by David Attenborough, the popular British broadcaster and naturalist of Planet Earth renown.

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A self-confessed Apple fan, Richard Zimmerman, the executive director of the charity, says that the project was inspired by Steve Jobs when he launched the iPad back in 2010. “I was literally sat in front of my Mac watching his presentation, when I thought, ‘Oh my God! This is perfect for orangutan enrichment,’” says Zimmerman. As their name suggests (orangutan literally translates from Malay and Baha Indonesian to “man of the forest”), the orange or reddish apes are highly intelligent creatures that require mental stimulation to keep from growing bored or depressed.

Scott Engel, a supporter of the Orangutan Outreach charity, brought an iPad to show the orangutans at his local Milwaukee zoo, giving the program the power boost it needed. “Initially the big male orangutan was not interested in the iPad at all, but as he watched the others play with it, he got involved and his whole personality changed as a result,” says Zimmerman. Now twelve zoos in Canada and the U.S. have picked up on the program, and more zoos internationally have also expressed interest. “Most zoo keepers really, really love it,” says Zimmerman. “Anything that helps improve the life of an orangutan is a good thing.” Auckland Zoo in New Zealand is expected to be the next on the list.

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While Apple has expressed interest in the program, nothing has been confirmed – yet. “We are talking to them about it, but it is unofficial at this point,” says Zimmerman, who also says that they plan on sticking with the Apple devices rather than any other tablets. However he does explain that developers have been keen to get involved: “We’re gathering data with different zookeepers in what trends they’ve seen and what’s not working. We’re reporting back to some of these developers to help tweak things. We could soon be getting apps made for apes rather than apps used by apes.”

Zimmerman is also very keen to emphasize the conservation message behind the program. The charity hopes it will raise awareness about the plight of the animals: “It is cute and fun watching them tapping on the iPad, but what is happening to them in the wild is actually horrific,” he says. Orangutans are native to Asia, but can now only be found in Borneo and Sumatra as a result of factors such as deforestation, urban growth and palm oil plantations. Zimmerman believes that the program will help convey how much danger the animals face: “This is a grand opportunity for these orangutans to be ambassadors for their cousins in the wild.” And perhaps soon, with just a few taps on an iPad, they can spread the word themselves.

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49 comments
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rs1201
rs1201

How can we help the programs protecting these Apes? Orangutans are much too close to humans to allow them to disappear

lottamoxie
lottamoxie

You know, those orangutans are much smarter than several senior executives at my last company.  More articulate and visionary too.

Edilberto Durano
Edilberto Durano

You just gave the orangutan the forbidden fruit. God save his soul!

DirtPickle
DirtPickle

They tried giving the apes the Nexus tablet but like everyone else they took the better product showing their much more evolved than Andriod users. They fling much less cr@p too!

REPENTorBURN
REPENTorBURN

Little 0bama has an ipod who wonderful.....

Jazz Man
Jazz Man

I guess I have to be the one to do it: it's not "enamored with"--it's "enamored of."

Fatesrider
Fatesrider

Given that the only thing these apes were given to work with was an iPad, it's not as if they had any choice.  Additionally, the people involved were Apple enthusiasts - hardly an objective component.  After all, I doubt the apes chose the videos on their own.

One wonders what the headline would have said if someone had offered them a choice of tablets and devices.  My guess is they'd have no preferences at all and would eventually use them all as Frisbees...

Monsignor Rory
Monsignor Rory

This is news? Detroiters have been stealing them since they debuted. 

indifferent07
indifferent07

Samsonite luggage is filing a trademark infringement case

beertoast
beertoast

Good to know what consumer group the iPad was designed for.

Eric Hutchison
Eric Hutchison

Was expecting to see Orangutan enamored with iPad...what do I get? Orangutan playing with blanket...I guess I see the resemblance...

lottamoxie
lottamoxie

You know, those orangutans are much smarter than several senior executives at my last company.  More articulate and visionary too.

Anvilcloud
Anvilcloud

Once they learn how to download porn, you won't be able to get the ipads away from them.

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If Obama had a son.....

Tom Zentra
Tom Zentra

There are already enough dumb monkeys tapping on iPads. Now they can learn from the gorilla leaders.

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 There are a few in the white house.

ChutPata
ChutPata

In IT, a mindless user is called a monkey.  Now mindless users using Apple products have a new name ... Apes!

rshak2
rshak2

This is how Planet of the Apes started. :)

Kevin J Baird
Kevin J Baird

This is just some B.S. the zoo workers can use to buy themselves iPads and say it was for research, get a write-off or make the non-profit zoo pay for it.  

btbky
btbky

Has anyone tried any of the communication apps such as Proloquo with the orangs? Might have been a good question to ask...

JDinHouston
JDinHouston

Yeah, but can they beat me at Angry Birds? I'm an advanced species, bring it on, you big, hairy ape! (er, orangutan)

OkieStateFan
OkieStateFan

So, they are teaching them to be as mindless as humans?

Draxta
Draxta

Goes to show, ALL apple users are knuckle draggers.

avp0713
avp0713

I think we should give the Orangutans some rubix cubes and maybe a set of Klik-Klaks, and donate the iPads to schools.

makkukka
makkukka

The poor orangutans!  Isn't it enough invading human's mind with senseless boring tablets? children won't leave the house just because they are enamored with the tablet!!! Do you really want the same for the orangutans? Leave the orangutans alone!!  If you want to change their lives, give them freedom and protection which is what they need and crave.  Seriously, they don't need i-pads....

Bret Van Beek
Bret Van Beek

Damn, I was hoping there were pictures of the monkeys using them at the RNC.

EyeTweaks
EyeTweaks

Apple for Apes who would have figured.  Course neanderthals have used apple products for a while now.

HotelQuebec
HotelQuebec

How many bananas for an apple?

ChutPata
ChutPata

Monkeys like bananas, apes like apples, humans like androids.

Sarcastro
Sarcastro

Apple Products- So simple even mindless monkeys  can use them.   So trendy, overpriced and underpowered only mindless sheep want to.

Tellyawut
Tellyawut

Try using your computer for something other than throwing monkey feces at things you can't comprehend.

DevilDog0341
DevilDog0341

Do you have to try being a total hater or does it come easy because you were born that way?

chris moore
chris moore

Let's be realistic about the comment you replied to. Apples entire business foundation is centered around products being extremely easy to use, they are trendy, they are often twice as much as comparable products, and Apple customers have long been polled as having less general tech knowledge as anyone else. The comment definitely has tones of Apple-angst, yet everything said is factually true. I've been a network engineer for 20 years now, and I can honestly say that when we're talking about mobile devices (ipods, iphones, ipads) the more aware someone is of the product market, the less likely they are to purchase Apple products to suit their needs.

Lucky Luke
Lucky Luke

Not everyone is an engineer. PC guy will never get that, you don't design stuff for yourself. You design for people who uses them. That is a problem for years with Windows. They are starting to be like Apple, you can see that in their new products and business models. Funny PC guys kept trashing Apple, but the company you love is following Apple...

Fatesrider
Fatesrider

 blarbf, hardly.  Just like any Apple user who gets a rotten Apple, they can take it to the techs to fix it. 

And if they had been Apples at IBM, IBM would have spent BILLIONS trying to integrate Apples into the business infrastructure and spent even more to repair the ones that went down (which they do approximately as often as regular PC's).  Apple only allows Apple Certified techs to work on their products, the products are far more expensive than comparable PC's and volume licensing isn't part of the Apple infrastructure.

You see the world as a USER, not an IT specialist.  EVERYONE requires training on a computer, Apple or PC.   So please don't try to compare apples to oranges like that.  You honestly don't know what you're talking about.

blarbf
blarbf

But that is because people who do not use apple MUST learn the inner workings if they hope to keep their computer running. I use to work for IBM and watched companies spend millions just teaching employees how to use the non-Apple PCs....so much for being cheaper.

EyeTweaks
EyeTweaks

Sounds like your the hater DevilSlob Apple products suck

AmericatheFormerlyGreat
AmericatheFormerlyGreat

Remember what happened last time a Zimmerman was around an ape?   Didn't turn out so well for the ape.

james891
james891

This isn't news.  We have known that for a long time.

Evets_Sboj
Evets_Sboj

Not surprising... Most Apple users I know are reminiscent of apes.

Tim Jones
Tim Jones

LOL...good for them.  Now if I could only afford one!

Gas Predictor
Gas Predictor

Reckon an orangutan  costume is cheaper than an iPad.  Get used to small living quarters, healthful diet, and some roommates with hygiene issues, and maybe they'll let you use an iPad for free!

Bryan Marshall
Bryan Marshall

 They would get suspicious when you start humping the hot new zookeeper trainee.

chris moore
chris moore

get a nexus 7 tablet. it has a smaller screen than the iPad, but the functionality far exceeds the iPad and it runs the latest Android version, which is also better looking than iOS. and it's only $200