iPads for apes? Tech-savvy primates stay plugged in - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

iPads for apes? Tech-savvy primates stay plugged in


This is probably not how Steve Jobs thought his iPads would be used. Some tech-savvy apes at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison are learning to use iPads. They’ve had them for a few weeks, donated through the Orangutan Outreach Program, and are enjoying playing games on them.

Their fingers are a little bigger and sometimes they get dirt on the screen, but don’t we all?

“It really doesn’t take much to train them to do these kind of things, they’re so highly intelligent that basically providing it to them is all that was required,” Ben Callison, Director at Black Beauty Ranch, said.

The iPad was donated to help apes in captivity learn new skills.

“Now, obviously an iPad is not something they would interact with in the wild, but we’re trying to replicate some of the brain activity, some of the enriching things that they would have done in the wild,” he said.

They like the paint, Koi pond, and xylophone apps best.

“And all of these are fascinating to them and they all have their favorite apps,” Callison said.

The apps are similar to children’s apps, but just like us, eventually they’ll need something new.

“We’ve only had it for a couple weeks, so they’re still enjoying those games, obviously once they start getting bored, just like a child would, we’ll probably have to download some new ones,” he said.

The apes usually like to play in a sunny area with lots of their play toys, but since it’s been so hot, they’ve had to move to a shaded area. It’s a good thing they’ve had the iPad to keep them busy.

“This is a great program and a great device for us to be able to provide the enrichment back here as well,” Callison said.

Though they can’t actually hold the app according to Andy Gray, a primate caretaker, “they don’t necessarily have our value of expensive things,” she said.

Sometimes they use their feet to play. They laugh and smile and get just as excited as we do to get a new toy.

“When we see them and watch them we see some of ourselves in them, you know we can relate to them,” Gray said.

Two of the apes are in their fifties, proving that you can teach an old dog, or ape, new tricks.

Lulu, Midge, and Kitty spent 25 years in research labs before they were sent to the Black Beauty Ranch Sanctuary.

Because the apes are a little rough with the iPad, the staff is asking for donations to purchase a strong case to protect it.

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