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Orangutans monkey around with iPads at zoo

A program called Apps for Apes has swung its way into the Smithsonian's National Zoo in the U.S. capital.

An orangutan monkeys around with the iPad.
An orangutan messes around with an iPad. YouTube/Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Apple's iPad is proving to be popular among a different, and hairier, type of consumer.

The Smithsonian's National Zoo recently kicked off Apps for Apes, a program that lets orangutans use the iPad as a way to stimulate their lives.

Offered through Orangutan Outreach, Apps for Apes has already been used at 12 other zoos around the world. As described by the group, the program has three goals:

  • Provide stimulating enrichment and immediate gratification for orangutans.
  • Make zoo visitors aware of the critical need to protect orangutans in the wild.
  • Promote the conservation efforts of Orangutan Outreach.

The group's Web site notes that "orangutans are highly intelligent creatures that require mental stimulation to keep from growing bored and depressed."

The National Zoo offers more than 10 iPad apps that the orangutans can use, including musical instruments, drawing programs, and even cognitive games, according to an article published by the zoo yesterday. As a few examples, one orangutan plays the drums on the tablet, another likes to tickle the ivories on a virtual piano, and a third enjoys a Koi Pond app that displays animated fish with music in the background.

"Apps for Apes fits perfectly in this new era of zoo keeping," Becky Malinsky, great ape keeper at the National Zoo, said in a statement. "It's about changing up the day-to-day lives of our animals. We already vary their food, toys and social interactions every day, but the iPad offers another way to engage their sight, touch, and hearing."

In case you're wondering, the orangutans use the touch screens through the bars in their cages. So they don't have unfettered access to YouTube videos of crazy cats -- yet.

People who want to make a donation to Apps for Apes can do so through the Orangutan Outreach Web site. Owners of older iPads can also donate their tablet to the group to give to an orangutan in need of a little app stimulation.

(Via AppleInsider)