Orangutans learn to communicate via iPad

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, May 9, 2012 9:27 EDT
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An Orangutan at Jungle Island in Miami. Screenshot via AP.
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Ape trainers at Miami’s Jungle Island are using a unique new approach to communicating with their favorite captives, helping orangutans learn to say what they mean using a special piece of software for Apple’s iPad.

Linda Jacobs, a volunteer trainer, told The Associated Press this week that apes enjoy communicating with humans but simply do not have the biological equipment to speak up for themselves.

“So, this gives them a way of letting us know what they know, what they’re capable of, what they’d like to have,” Jacobs said, adding that one day she hopes to have a more sturdy tablet the apes can use without assistance to interact with zoo visitors.

A similar project at the Bonobo Hope Great Ape Trust Sanctuary in Des Moines, Iowa hopes to accomplish the same feat by using robotic ape surrogates that can be controlled from a touch-screen device.

Buena Vista University Professor Ken Schweller even said that he’d like to equip the robo-apes with water guns so the real apes can spray visitors remotely.

This video is from The Associated Press, published Wednesday, May 9, 2012.

Photo: Screenshot via AP.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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