Well, except if you are a chimpanzee or an orangutan at the Houston Zoo, then it can be tons of fun. As mentioned previously in Problem Solving with Apes, the orangutans and chimpanzees are using the iPad as a form of enrichment.
So how does a chimpanzee or orangutan use an iPad?
For starters, the iPad is held by a keeper outside of the ape’s enclosure. Orangutans with their curious nature love to take things apart to see how they work. Rambunctious chimpanzees tend to use everything in their path when creating big noisy displays. Unfortunately, the iPad would not withstand either one of these situations. A protective case called an Otterbox is also used to ensure that the iPad is not damaged by the more enthusiastic apes.
Both the orangutans and chimpanzees are still able to touch and interact with the iPad. The choice to interact is completely up to the individual. They can walk away from the iPad when they choose and no food treats are given as a reward for interacting with the iPad. Playing with apps on the iPad is the treat! Most of our chimpanzees and orangutans love this new enrichment item and become very excited when they see the keeper approaching with it.
To introduce the iPad, keepers started with just showing it to the apes. Videos were shown first as well as various storybooks. They are especially fond of videos featuring themselves or other apes! Keepers then began to demonstrate apps to them. As individuals showed interest in touching the screen and interacting with the iPad, keepers gave them the opportunity.
At this point, one of the most difficult challenges was discovered. The iPad reacts to an electrical current from the body. Touching with a fingernail does not work and as Cheyenne, an orangutan that is particularly good at problem solving, discovered neither did any of the amazing tools she created using branches, paper, or cardboard.
Some quickly figured out that the finger pad was the best option to use to work with the iPad. Others eventually caught on after observing the successful interactions of other apes. Lulu, an independent chimpanzee, invented her own way of interacting with the iPad using the back of her finger. This is particularly useful if you want to paint a large area of the iPad screen quickly. Lulu, who is one of the older mothers in the chimpanzee group, was also helpful in demonstrating how to use the iPad to other more hesitant chimpanzees.