It was the kind of moment Steve Jobs dreamed of: the gleeful clapping of a 4-year-old, awestruck and delighted by his own image on screen. But there’s a twist to this tale. The tot in question is Mahal, a young orangutan at the Milwaukee County Zoo.
Inspired by an April Fool’s joke on The Sun, the zoo’s gorillas and orangs were given a chance to play with a second-hand tablet. The orangutans adored it and their enthusiasm inspired a new project, which aims to hand “Apples to Orangs” with social networking in mind.
Led by Richard Zimmerman of Orangutan Outreach, Apps for Apes aims to raise awareness of the conservation crisis facing orangutans and provide a research tool for humans.
What may be a first in the touch-screens-for-animals-field, however, is his hope to use Skype and Facebook-style apps to connect orangutans to apes across the country. This could even facilitate romantic rendezvous for amorous orangs.
What are the top apps for orangutans at the moment? Magic Piano and Koi Pond are popular picks. Julian Smith of New Scientist reports that Mahal likes penguin videos (he should read The Perch!) and his adopted mother MJ is a huge fan of David Attenborough documentaries.
If Ipads for apes sounds surprising, take a look at the work being done with dolphins. Even house pets are getting into apps—as a viral video of a bearded dragon championing ant crusher demonstrates.
For more about apps, don’t miss Alisa Opar’s green app roundup on The Perch or visit the magazine to read Rachel Nuwer’s expose on the effect apps have on birds.