Apes get iPads at US National Zoo

Orangutans at a US National Zoo have been given iPads and are now using 10 different musical, drawing and gaming apps to keep occupied.

"It's about changing up the day-to-day lives of our animals," Becky Malinsky, a keeper at the Smithsonian's National Zoo, said.

"We already vary their food, toys and social interactions every day, but the iPad offers another way to engage their sight, touch and hearing," Malinsky said.

The apes are using 10 different apps, including cognitive games, drawing programs and ones that feature virtual musical instruments, 'LiveScience' reported.

Some of the orangutans are already showing their preferences 36-year-old Bonnie likes to hit the drums, 16-year-old Kyle likes to play the piano and 25-year-old Iris likes watching animated fish swim in a virtual koi pond on the screen, zoo keepers said.

The iPads were made available through 'Apps for Apes', an initiative from the conservation organisation Orangutan Outreach, which has already provided tablet devices for the intelligent primates in 12 other zoos.

"Primarily, we want the Apps for Apes program to help people understand why we need to protect wild orangutans from extinction," Richard Zimmerman, founding director of Orangutan Outreach, said.

"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," said Zimmerman. Orangutans are among humans' closest relatives and there are only a few tens of thousands of them currently left in the wild.

They are found in the Sumatran rain forests, where they are critically endangered, and the Borneo rain forests, where also they are endangered.

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