Clip of the Day: iPads Are an Orangutan’s Best Friend

Apparently, Apple tech gadgets have inter-species appeal.

A handful of zoos across the country are introducing fancy Apple gadgets to orangutans as a means of communication.

At one such zoo, the orangutans get to choose their meals based on pictures displayed on an iPad.

“They have all the intelligence that they need to really communicate with us—what they don’t have are developed vocal cords…this gives them a voice,” said Linda Jacobs, zookeeper at Miami’s Jungle Island zoological park.

Zookeepers at Jungle Island in Miami, Fla., engage their orangutans with iPad games.

This Miami zoo follows in the footsteps of other parks such as the Milwaukee County Zoo, which experimented with iPads in mid-2011. Four-year-old orangutans are a lot like four-year-old children, said Trish Khan, Milwaukee County Zoo orangutan keeper. Both love finger-painting, banging on drums, and playing with tech toys.

“Right away from the orangutans we had an immediate positive response,” said Khan in this video for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

While the apes are not trusted with the expensive iPads on their own, a zookeeper will often hold an iPad up to their cages, letting orangutans draw or press buttons through the barriers of the cage. And the conservation group Orangutan Outreach is supporting the trend with an orangutan iPad program called Apps for Apes, designed to provide enrichment in the animals’ daily lives.

The entertainment from the iPad is endless, including basic coloring or music applications, videos of other animals around the zoo, or even videos recording the orangutans themselves. Apps for Apes is also looking to get iPads into more zoos, with the goal of setting up FaceTime playdates between orangutans miles and miles away, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Talk about technology in the 21st century.

Zoos introducing iPads to their orangutans: expensive or innovative? Let us know in the comments.


Kelly Zhou is a student and Bay Area native who loves online multimedia and politics. Email Kelly | @kellyzhou