A female orangutan who resides at the Toronto Zoo could use a donated iPad to connect with her female offspring who was shipped away to Memphis two years ago.
That’s according to Richard Zimmerman, founder of Apps for Apes, a program focused on getting a few of Apple's tablet computers donated for use at the zoo.
He said the program has been a hit at the Milwaukee Zoo, where orangutans are going ape over iPad apps for painting, listening to music, and even video chatting using programs such as Skype and Facetime.
"An orangutan really needs a lot of enrichment," he said. "They are very intelligent creatures. And what we’re hoping with the Toronto Zoo is that we’ll be able to get them some iPads so they can have some enrichment sessions, and paint and play games and have fun."
But Zimmerman, who was interviewed Tuesday on CBC Radio’s Here and Now, said the devices will be used for more than just primate play.
Hope for online reunion
The Toronto Zoo has an older female orangutan named Puppe whose female offspring Jahe was sent to a zoo in Memphis, Tenn., two years ago. Jahe has since had a baby of her own that Puppe hasn’t seen. Zimmerman is hoping the iPad can be used to connect them via video chat.
"We want to be able to have them Skype one another so they can see one another. We would love [Jahe] to be able to go online and show her baby to her mother."
Zimmerman’s group also raises funds for orphaned orangutans and works to raise awareness about issues surrounding orangutans in captivity. He said orangutans are highly intelligent and can become bored during the winter months, a problem the iPad can alleviate.
"What we’re hoping with the Toronto Zoo is that we’ll be able to get them some iPads so they can have some enrichment sessions, and paint and play games and have fun," he said.
He said the iPads can be put into a special casing so they can’t be damaged over-enthusiastic orangutans. In Milwaukee, the orangutans operate the devices through a fence to prevent damage.
Zimmerman said the next step is for someone to step forward and donate iPads for use at the Toronto Zoo. He’s hoping corporate donors, Apple in particular, might step up.
"We're hoping to really show them that their tool can be something that helps save the orangutans in the wild while entertaining and providing enrichment for orangutans in zoos."