Apps for Apes: How Orangutans at the Smithsonian National Zoo are Using iPads

Posted in Apple News, iPad on 24/01/2013 by J. Glenn Künzler


We already know that humans enjoy using iPads a great deal – a fact which Apple’s ever-increasing iPad sales bear constant testament to. Given that humans enjoy the iPad so much, why not spread the joy to other primates as well? Continuing a trend already in force at 12 other zoos around the world (including the Miami Zoo and the Milwaukee County Zoo), the Smithsonian National Zoo has decided to do just that.

iPad orangutan (via CNET):

When great ape keepers at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo were deciding how to add more variety and enrichment to their animals’ lives, they turned to Orangutan Outreach and a program that had seen great success in 12 other zoos around the world: Apps for Apes. With the tap of a finger, keepers are introducing the Zoo’s six orangutans to iPads, which provide unique stimuli. They found that 36-year-old Bonnie likes to bang on the drums, 16-year-old Kyle prefers the piano and 25-year-old Iris is content to listen to the soothing sounds of the koi pond while watching animated fish splash.

The iPads are used for a variety of purposes – from music, games, and finger painting apps to apps that help the orangutans comunicate using a visual lexicon. The iPads are even loaded with video apps, allowing the orangutans to watch videos of their fellow zoo mates. Orangutan Outreach hopes that they will eventually be able to use Skype-like video tools for the creatures to actually communicate with each other using the iPads.

It’s pretty amazing to see the iPad used not only to enrich human lives – but to improve the lives of other creatures as well! While I won’t be handing my iPad to an ape any time soon, I marvel at the interesting things technology is able to accomplish.

What an amazing technology-infused world we live in.


J. Glenn Künzler

Glenn is Managing Editor at MacTrast, and has been using a Mac since he bought his first MacBook Pro in 2006. Now he's up to his neck in Apple, and owns an old iBook, a 2012 iMac with an extra Thunderbolt display for good measure, a 4th-generation iPad, an iPad mini, 2 iPhones, and a Mac Mini that lives at the neighbor's house. He lives in a small town in Utah, enjoys bacon more than you can possibly imagine, and is severely addicted to pie.