Apps for apes: Orangutans get iPads in US, Canadian zoos

Updated 04 September 2012

Apps for apes: Orangutans get iPads in US, Canadian zoos

TORONTO: Humans aren’t the only species on the planet with a penchant for electronic gadgets. Zookeepers across the United States and Canada are discovering that apes also get excited about apps.
As part of a program called Apps for Apes, 12 zoos across the two countries have been incorporating iPads into the enrichment time allotted for orangutans, the giant furry red primates native to Indonesia and Malaysia.
“We’re finding that, similar to people, they like touching the tablet, watching short videos of David Attenborough for instance, and looking at other animals and orangutans,” said Richard Zimmerman, founding director of Orangutan Outreach, the New York City-based non-profit that runs the program.
Twice weekly, orangutans are provided with access to the tablets. The animals spend from 15 minutes to a half hour using different apps depending on their attention span.
Apps geared toward children that stimulate activities such as painting, music and memory games are among the most popular apps with the apes.
At the Toronto Zoo, zookeeper Matthew Berridge uses apps such as Doodle Buddy for drawing, Montessori Counting Board and Activity Memo Pocket, a memory game, in addition to playing YouTube videos for the apes.
“It’s a lot like when we’re showing children pop-up books,” said Zimmerman, adding that the orangutans are among the most intelligent primates, with the intelligence level of a young child.
Zookeepers are also investigating how communication apps, such as those for the autistic, can help the animals to express themselves better, according to Zimmerman.
“Let’s say an orangutan has a toothache. He or she would be able to then tap on the iPad on a picture of a tooth and communicate it that way,” he explained.
One very intelligent, but armless, orangutan at the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, Florida is so intent on using the device that she uses her feet to navigate through the touchscreens.
“When you see the enjoyment and focus on their faces it’s special, especially for orangutans who are in an enclosure all day and you’re providing enrichment for them,” said Zimmerman.
Because the tablets are so fragile the zookeepers handle the apps while the animals navigate the touchscreen, but the organization is investigating creating larger, more rugged casings.
The program, which is not meant to replace physical stimulation or climbing, also aims to raise awareness about the threats orangutans face in the wild.
“We’re hoping that in that moment we can make a breakthrough with (zoo visitors] and say, ‘Listen, these are beautiful animals that are obviously curious and intelligent and not too far from us and this is what they’re dealing with in the wild,’” said Zimmerman.
Orangutans are critically endangered because of the rapid deforestation and expansion of palm oil plantations into their rainforest homes, he added.
The program, which relies on donated iPads, will soon be expanding to zoos across Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Europe.


KFC apologizes for ‘sexist’ Australian ad

Updated 21 January 2020

KFC apologizes for ‘sexist’ Australian ad

  • The ad shows a woman dressed in a short playsuit as she looks at her reflection in the window of a parked car
  • The Zinger Popcorn box ad has so far garnered over 60,000 views

KFC on Tuesday apologized for an advertisement in Australia that shows two boys ogling at a woman's low-cut top, after calls from a local campaign group to boycott the fast-food giant over the ad it called “sexist.”
The 15-second ad, which has been running on television for the past three weeks and is also posted on KFC Australia’s YouTube channel, shows a woman dressed in a short playsuit  as she looks at her reflection in the window of a parked car.
The car’s window then rolls down to show two young boys staring at the woman, before she smiles and says, “Did someone say KFC?“
The Zinger Popcorn box ad has so far garnered over 60,000 views with over 160 dislikes and 700 likes on YouTube.
“We apologize if anyone was offended by our latest commercial. Our intention was not to stereotype women and young boys in a negative light,” a spokesperson for Yum Brands-owned KFC’s South Pacific unit said.
While many viewers did not approve of the ad, some took to Twitter to label the ad “funny” and said there was no need for the company to apologize.
Collective Shout, a group which campaigns against the objectification of women, condemned the ad and said it was a “regression to tired and archaic stereotypes where young women are sexually objectified for male pleasure.”
“Ads like this reinforce the false idea that we can’t expect better from boys. It is another manifestation of the ‘boys will be boys’ trope, hampering our ability to challenge sexist ideas which contribute to harmful behavior toward women and girls,” the group’s spokeswoman, Melinda Liszewski, said.
Last month, exercise bike maker Peloton Interactive Inc. faced heavy criticism for its Christmas advertisement, in which a woman receiving the company’s bike as a gift from her husband was called “sexist” and “dystopian” on social media.
Some said the husband was “controlling” and “manipulative” as buying his wife an exercise bike suggested that she needed to lose weight.
Both ads were criticized nearly a month after they were first published on online media and television.