Puppe, one of six Sumatran Orangutans at the Toronto Zoo, and her baby. Its been found that they enjoy using the iPad and that it is an additional way to keep these intelligent animals stimulated.
Photo Credit: Toronto Zoo

The Toronto Zoo and “Apps for Apes” 2.0


Sumatran Orangutans are highly intelligent.

Richard Zimmerman is with Orangutan Outreach, a conservation group based in New York. He proposed an idea called “Apps for Apes” with the idea that enabling the animals to access computers would stimulate them and keep them from boredom and perhaps enable communication with human keepers

The Toronto Zoo received an iPad early last year from a donor and they’ve been working with their six orangutans since then, with beneficial results.  Now the idea has reached a new phase. This year, the Toronto-based innovation company SplitElement Inc. has been working with the zoo to create apps specifically designed for the orangutans.

Christopher Lewis is with SplitElement


Shortly after the tablet arrived, it became clear that the orangutans enjoyed the extra diversion. They seemed to like to watch videos, and play memory games.

The SplitElement team L-R: Demi Kandylis (founder), Adam Hunter, Christopher Lewis © Split element

One of the problems is that orangutans fingers are not as dexterous as human fingers so there was some difficulty,  and then tended to touch the small icons on the screen with their finger nails which didn’t successful activate the icon.

SplitElement began working on apps specifically suited to the animals.

The result is a programme called “Orangutapp”.  One of the things they now enjoy is being able to select which daily enrichment foods they want to eat…touch the icon for grapes, the carekeeper gives them grapes, touch kale and they get kale.

The Toronto zoo says it’s just the first step in developing “interspecies communication”. It also is giving the zoo insight into the likes and dislikes of the orangutans.

The Orangutans like watching videos, and playing memory games, and now they enjoy selecting for themselves which enrichment foods they want. Apps like this are breaking down the barriers and helping to work toward interspecies communication © Toronto Zoo

The orangutans for the time being cannot be left with the iPad as it would no doubt end up broken in play as orangutans are very strong.

Plans are in the works for create a large-scale interactive projected touch screen which will further facilitate the experience for the orangutans and help to again reduce barriers to communication.  In time, there may also be an app  available for the public

Lewis says the working with the zoo and the orangutans has been a marvelous experience, for him and the other company team members who are working on the project, founder Demi Kandylis, and Adam Hunter.

Toronto Zoo carekeeper Matthew Berridge works closely with the orangutans and SplitElement helping to improve the Apps for Apes concept © Toronto Zoo

Lewis says as development continues and both  they and the zoo learn more about how the orangutans use and interact with the technology they will be able to continually improve it and develop other very helpful programmes.

This could involve such things as programmes to help the animals tell keepers if they’re not well, and where it hurts, such as a toothache or stomach ache, etc.




Categories: Environment, International, Internet, Science and Technology
Tags: ,

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1. RCInet.ca’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. RCInet.ca reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3. RCInet.ca’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.


5 comments on “The Toronto Zoo and “Apps for Apes” 2.0
  1. its nice to see this site.its very informative site and zoo technology apps are so helpful for radio connections.i like this website.thanks for sharing it

  2. Hey there,,

    I want to say you one special thing like you have done an extra ordinary task..i am so impressed with your great work..thanking you so much..all great stories are here. i must say thanks a lot..

  3. Avatar rajendra kumar says:

    Very nice and attractive zoo…..

  4. Avatar mrG says:

    interesting they should choose the restricted proprietary ipad platform rather than an open platform where they could more easily create custom hardware; my local reseller just took shipment of some very robust Android systems made for the (very niche) early-school market, sturdy brushed aluminium cases, extra-strength screens etc.

  5. Avatar Ursula Wagner says:

    What a lovely news for a change, simply amazing. I will forward that to our local zoo, incase they haven`t heard of it.