Chimpanzees At The Houston Zoo Learn To Use The iPad With 'Apps For Apes'

"Apps for Apes" is how the Houston Zoo is tapping into the minds of one of the most intelligent primates.


It's no monkey business.

"Apps for Apes" is how the Houston Zoo is tapping into the minds of one of the most intelligent primates. Some of the animals are all about learning the new technology and others not so much.

"Do you want to choose something? The guitar...OK press the guitar," said Helen Boostrom, a keeper at the zoo. She explained how most of the chimpanzees are still learning to work the iPad but there's no doubt they're "adapting to apps."

"There drawings are very abstract kind of like that level where you can't really tell what they're drawing" Boostrom says. There work is often compared to that of a toddler. They like to draw, color and even flip through picture books.

Boostrom is the lead trainer for the "apps for apes program," she's been study animal behavior and particularly how well the great apes can pick up on the iPad. Interestingly enough, she says, it's the females and younger ones who are fascinated.

"It took them a while to watch the others using it and now pretty much all of them except our two older males know how the iPads work."

Naturally great apes are problem solvers, so for those in captivity Boostrom says it's important to continue to challenge them and now she can do that by changing the "Settings" or skill level on the apps.

"Older females were very interested in the apps that kinda require focus, so like the fishing were they had to do specific things where as the juveniles would lose interest very quickly" just like Willy she says. He's the youngest chimp who was the first to pick up on the iPad and was even able to overcome a "technical difficulty."

"The iPad responds to like electricity from your skin so if they touch with their finger nails probably in part of the video lulu wasn't able to...her finger nails are touching and she wasn't able to figure out why it isn't working" while others Boostrom SAYS, have learned to use their knuckles. Boostrom adds, she's trained pretty much all of the great apes including the Orangutans and so far her biggest challenge she says is finding new apps and fun games.

That's because she says, once they've mastered the concept it's game-over. "If they've seen it a million times they're like I've already done it's me trying to always find new apps and new things that still have that interest with them".

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