The Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., has started utilizing Apple’s iPad as a new interactive enrichment tool aimed at cognitive development for the zoo’s simians. According to DCist, the zoo, in conjunction with 12 other zoos from around the world, is participating in what has been dubbed “Apps for Apes,” a program that leverages the touchscreen interactivity of Apple’s iPad to enrich the lives of those apes in captivity.
The National Zoo first joined the initiative when a zookeeper’s family member donated an iPad to the Great Ape House. After talking with fellow program participants, the zoo was able to pick and choose ten apps that seemed to be most conducive to interaction; including a number of music, drawing and game apps. According to the keeper in the video below, one of the orangutans named Iris is particularly fond of the popular app, Koi Pond.
According to animal keeper Erin Stromberg:
Apps for Apes is all about giving orangutans in human care choice over their environment. With the iPad, we're hoping to tap less into the critical-thinking outlet and more into a creative outlet. If they're engaged in an app, we'll keep going. If not, they have the choice to walk away.
We do that when we show Zoo visitors how similar humans and apes are, be it through observation, talking with wildlife experts or seeing the apes use the same technology we use every day.
Seeing the apes in the zoo using the iPad is no different than seeing certain people use the iPad in terms of entertainment. In all seriousness though, the initiative is really interesting and it’s nice to see the zoo trying to enrich the lives of the animals they hold captive.