People already share 97% of the same genetic material with orangutans and now it looks like we're sharing Apple products, as well. Orangutans at Miami's Jungle Island have taken to using iPads as a way of communicating with trainers and visitors through an app (initially designed for humans with autism) in which the trainer will name an object and the orangutan must press the corresponding button on the iPad screen. Primate experts are thrilled with the development, claiming that iPads could act as a bridge of communication for orangutans who, while highly intelligent, do not possess the ability to talk. Says the program's overseer Linda Jacobs:
"They are sort of trapped in those bodies. They have the intelligence that they need to communicate, but they don't have the right equipment, because they don't have voice boxes or vocal chords. So this gives them a way to let us know what they know, what they are capable of, what they would like to have."
The iPads have also assisted in a quicker diagnosis of medical problems as they allow the orangutans to identify their own physical ailments.
"We're able to really monitor their health on a daily basis," Jacobs said of the need for communication with the orangutans. "We can do daily checks. If somebody's not feeling well, we know it immediately."
Again showing their similarities to people, it's only the younger generation of orangutans that seem to have taken to the new technology with the older generation unable to figure what all of the fuss is about:
"Our young ones pick up on it. They understand it. It's like, 'Oh I get this,'" Jacobs said. "Our two older ones, they just are not interested. I think they just figure, 'I've gotten along just fine in this world without this communication-skill here and the iPad, and I don't need a computer.'"
Other zoos have also began using iPad technology for their orangutans, with Richard Zimmerman, executive director of Orangutan Outreach, building an Apps for Apes program which will filter old donated iPads to wildlife facilities around the country.