Monkeying Around With Tablets

By Tim Moran  |  Posted Friday, September 07, 2012 14:05 PM

By Tim Moran

Tell me, why are all apes created equal?”

Some apes, it seems, are more equal than others.”

So said ape Dr. Zaius to human George Taylor in Planet of the Apes.

If the Orangutan Outreach has its way, some orangutans will be more equal than others, too ... especially when it comes to tablet computing.

In an effort to “provide stimulating enrichment and immediate gratification for orangutans,” the conservation organization has created the “Apps for Apes” project, which aims to “introduce Apple iPad technology to orangutans in order to provide them with unlimited enrichment opportunities.” 

Beyond giving the apes something to do with their free time, the project is also designed to “raise awareness among zoo visitors of the critical need to protect orangutans in the wild and promote the conservation efforts of Orangutan Outreach.”

More than a dozen zoos around the world are taking part in the project.

According to the site, orangutans are “highly intelligent creatures that require mental stimulation to keep from growing bored and depressed.”

Not unlike humans, it seems, these “red apes” are unique individuals that have their own likes and dislikes. They need stimulation, and freedom of choice is critical to their well-being. The more choices they have, the better, says the conservation group.

Enter the iPad, which the outreach believes will give the orangutans “unlimited enrichment opportunities.” These apes, it seems, take to the iPad naturally, for they have “an innate ability to work with touch-screen technology”—something that’s been demonstrated in zoos across the country.

The site states that, “With proper guidance, orangutans will be able to use their devices just like humans do—to spend their time doing things that they enjoy. They will have access to music, musical instruments, cognitive games, art, painting, drawing, photos and videos. Among other things, they will be able to see photos and videos of other orangutans.”

Now, parents of teens—and even younger kids—might argue that playing with the iPad does not constitute a good use of time, but since the apes aren’t burdened with homework or preparing for the SATs, momma orangutans are probably happy to have their kids doing something other than, quite literally, just hanging around.

As for liking to make choices, well, one hopes that apes don’t get too choosy.

The outreach is asking for donations in the form on old tablets: “If you have a gently used iPad that you’d like to donate to an orangutan, let us know! First generation iPad 1s are perfect for the orangutans to play with.”

Sure, until they hear about the latest devices with retina display, 5MP iSight camera and 4G LTE. Or they decide they want a Google Nexus 7 or Samsung Galaxy Tab, just to be different.

I, for one, wouldn’t want a picky orangutan on my back, or one that feels “more equal than others.” We all know how that worked out.