When It Comes to Technology, Miami's Orangutans Are Just Like People

Orangutan With iPad
AP

When trainers at Miami's Jungle Island introduced iPads to the orangutans there, the young ones took to the devices immediately. But the older primates didn't show much interest in the technology.

Just like humans, the six apes illustrated a generational divide when it came to the shiny new gadgets, the Associated Press reports.

"Our young ones pick up on it. They understand it. It's like, 'Oh I get this,'" program director Linda Jacobs told the AP. "Our two older ones, they just are not interested. I think they just figure, 'I've gotten along just fine in this world without this communication-skill here and the iPad, and I don't need a computer.'"

The zoo joins a growing list of parks across the country, from Houston to Toronto, that are experimenting with the iPad as a communication tool for primates. The orangutans draw and play a vocabulary game with trainers, in which the human names an object and the primate touches a picture of that object on the screen. The software was originally designed for humans with autism.

Orangutan With iPad
AP

But this isn't just play time — the technology accomplishes two important things: It improves communication between the orangutans and their trainers (as well as other humans who don't understand the primates' sign language), and it provides much-needed mental enrichment for the extremely intelligent primates.

For more information about Jungle Island's program, check out the Associated Press article. And tell us: How does your local zoo use technology to enrich animals' lives?

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