The Milwaukee County Zoo uses many different tools for animal enrichment. Animal enrichment, as defined by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), is “a dynamic process for enhancing animal environments within the context of the animals’ behavioral biology and natural history. Environmental changes are made with the goal of increasing the animal’s behavioral choices and drawing out their species-appropriate behaviors, thus enhancing animal welfare.”
The Zoo has been using iPads as an enrichment tool since 2011 for its primates, namely the orangutans, and also for the lowland gorillas and bonobos. iPads provide the primates with a very unique form of enrichment. Orangutan, MJ, loves watching This Old House and the Antiques Roadshow. She also likes viewing Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Julia Child, dental cleaning procedures and animal/keeper video interactions from other zoos. Orangutan, Tom, prefers watching the Joy of Painting and has even followed along by air paiting with a stick, as show host Bob Ross instructs. Tom has also shown interest in watching the Prairie Home Companion, Julia Child and NASA outer space footage.
The oragutans also enjoy listening to music including Carlos Santana’s and John McLaughlin’s version of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” MJ seems to favor the jazz genre of music, while Tom seems to prefer baroque classical music such as Mozart and Vivaldi. Other iPad enrichment activities have included using iPad appliations Doodle Buddy, Tap Drums, Magic Piano and Koi Pond.
The lowland gorillas have shown some interest in iPad enrichment but they tend to be more cautious than the orangutans by nature. Lowland gorilla, Hodari, has enjoyed iPad finger painting.
Keepers have just started using iPad enrichment with the bonobos. Information about the bonobo iPad enrichment progress will be posted at a later time.
Orangutan Outreach, a New York based nonprofit organization and its Apps For Apes program, works with zoos to establish similar iPad enrichment programs. For more information on this program, please visit the Apps for Apes website.
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