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Oceans2Earth strives to assist with local solutions to global problems. O2E was founded in Melbourne, Australia in 2010 for the purpose of providing resources and financial assistance to animal welfare and conservation projects including elephant sanctuary land in Kenya, cat and dog rescue in Africa and community recycled product projects in Asia and Africa. The O2E Foundation aims to facilitate people’s awareness of the impacts of animal tourism, trade and human intervention on the welfare, sustainability and general health of wildlife populations.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

IPads for Apes?

With the unfortunate predicament and sad necessity for captive animals comes our responsibility to provide them with the most natural way of life possible. Even progressive zoos are acknowledging that a concrete box is no place for an animal.

At the RSPCA Scientific Conference 2007 research presentation ‘How much space does an elephant need? The impact of confinement on animal welfare’ by John L. Barnett, Animal Welfare Science Centre, Primary Industries Research Victoria, Australia the following statement was made;
Nevertheless, impacts of confinement can include behavioural changes/stereotypes (Lawrence and Terlouw, 1993), rebound behaviours (Cronin et al., 2003), behaviours indicative of frustration (Ekstrand and Keeling, 1994) and changes in time budgets (Kobelt et al., 2006) and acute and chronic
stress and associated physiological changes in immune function, health, metabolism,
nitrogen balance and growth and reproduction.”
We completely abhor the captivity of animals however often rescues cannot be rehabilitated and returned to the wild. That should not forfeit their lives however they deserve the best care we can give them. Enrichment is imperative. We have witnessed many ingenious gadgets and activities that help to give those captives a chance to use their bodies and brains. And so it seems technology has taken hold even in this. Read on…..

Providing enrichment for the orangs

Orangutans across the world may soon join the ranks of millions of humans as proud owners of new iPads. As strange as that may sound, a conservation group is testing its "Apps for Apes" program, allowing orangutans to communicate with each other remotely via the iPad's video chat technology.

Orangutan Outreach founder Richard Zimmerman says has iPads have already been donated to zoos in Milwaukee, Atlanta and Florida. A board member of the Houston Zoo also recently donated an iPad. More of the tablets will soon be sent to the Memphis Zoo, the Center for Great Apes in Florida and to the Toronto Zoo. Orangutans are considered to be amongst the most intelligent of primates, making them a good case study for the interactive technology.

"It's not a gimmick," Zimmerman told Yahoo News in a phone interview Tuesday. "If they don't want to do it, they won't. There are actual measurable benefits."

Zimmerman said that orangutans in zoos and other primate facilities usually receive all the food and love they need. However, during winter months they are forced to spend long periods of time indoors, which is counter to their natural habitat. And living indoors for extended periods of time can result in boredom and stunt social growth among other primates.

"They need stimulation, especially indoors," Zimmerman tells Yahoo News. "The zoo keepers can see the benefit from this sort of enrichment. We're doing this as enrichment as opposed to research. But researchers are getting involved, that's just not our jurisdiction."

Scientists and layman alike have long speculated on ways to better indoctrinate primates and other animals with human technology. Dolphins have already demonstrated an ability to interact with iPad technology with researchers using it as a language interaction device between dolphins and humans. There are even several iPad games made specifically for cats.

But even more interesting possibilities present themselves once a number of zoos have their orangutans acclimated to using the iPads. Zimmerman said he hopes they will be able to use Skype or the iPad's FaceTime feature to communicate remotely with orangutans at other zoos during "play dates." Zimmerman said he recently visited Jahe, an orangutan at the Memphis Zoo who used to live at the Toronto Zoo. When Zimmerman showed Jahe a photo on his iPhone of some of her relatives still living in Toronto, she appeared to recognize them.

"Given an opportunity to demonstrate that intelligence, it's pretty amazing," Zimmerman tells Yahoo News.

The biggest obstacle for now is coming up with the funding to purchase more iPads. Orangutan Outreach refuses to use its funds on the tablets, saying its priorities must be toward conservation and helping to rescue orangutans that are victims of violence in the wild.

Zimmerman said so far he has been unable to reach Apple directly about any possible donations for the project. "I could get them to the zoos tomorrow," Zimmerman said, if Apple were to make such a donation. "Our Plan B has been to hopefully get their attention through this effort."

When the tire swing or the rope hammock no longer entice, what’s a bored orangutan to do? Reach for the iPad, because there’s an app for that ape.

The Toronto Zoo is at “the top of the list’’ to get a donated iPad from Orangutan Outreach, a conservation group spearheading an Apps for Apes program.

Founder and director Richard Zimmerman said he has been watching the Milwaukee Zoo’s iPad program involving its three orangutans, which started last year, and is extending Apps for Apes to other zoos.

“It’s incredibly exciting,’’ he said.

In Milwaukee, a keeper holds an iPad through a mesh screen while the primates have fun manipulating a painting app with their fingers.

Zimmerman, whose charitable group raises funds for orphaned and rescued orangutans in their native Malaysia and Indonesia, and promotes awareness of orangutan conservation issues, said the painting program stimulates the primates, who get bored in captivity.

“Orangutans like to paint and they’re capable of using this digital device,” he said, adding “there’s no paint to eat.’’

Zimmerman has been in touch with the Toronto Zoo about sending an iPad once more devices are donated. “We wish it could go faster.’’

(Funds donated to Orangutan Outreach only go to its overseas programs.)

A Toronto Zoo spokeswoman said it’s trying to get donated iPads for the orangutan enrichment initiative. Staff have been working with York University animal behaviour expert Suzanne MacDonald to line up suitable primate-friendly apps.

“They have performed a couple of trials with iPhones, and there is response from the orangutans,’’ said the zoo’s Katie Gray.

Zimmerman is about to send an iPad to the Centre for Great Apes in Florida, and has already sent them to Atlanta. The Memphis Zoo is on his list but he doesn’t have one yet.

Once a number of zoos have iPads, Zimmerman hopes orangutans can get to “know each other’’ via a video chat app. He has no doubt orangutans can recognize other orangutans when they see their images.

At the Memphis Zoo recently, he visited an orangutan named Jahe, who used to live at the Toronto Zoo with her mother, Puppe, and brother, Budi.

Zimmerman showed Jahe, who’s about 12 years old, a photo of Puppe and Bude on his iPhone.

Jahe “was very close to her mother and her brother, they had a very strong relationship. She recognized them,’’ said Zimmerman. “Unscientifically speaking, they show recognition the same as we do — their eyes light up. She really demonstrated recognition.’’

Volunteer Australia

The Orangutan Outreach is massive in the orangutan conservation arena.

Orangutan Outreach's mission is to protect orangutans in their native habitat while providing care for orphaned and displaced orangutans until they can be returned to their natural environment. We seek to raise and promote public awareness of orangutan conservation issues by collaborating with partner organizations around the world.

Richard Zimmerman is the Founding Director of Orangutan Outreach, a New York-based non-profit organisation whose mission is to save the critically endangered orangutans and protect their rainforest home.

The organization quickly began to thrive thanks to an affiliation with the Animal Planet series Orangutan Island. With little more than his Mac, his iPhone and his will to save orangutans by working with like-minded groups and individuals around the world, Richard has raised over a million dollars for orangutan conservation and made a real difference in the lives of orangutans. He has expanded Orangutan Outreach to work with an increasing number of partners and is now working with the UK-base International Animal Rescue (IAR) to build a new state-of-the-art orangutan rescue and rehabilitation center in Ketapang, West Kalimantan.


If you'd like to make a direct donation to Orangutan Outreach, you can do so here. Toronto Zoo orangutans may get iPad.

Information sourced for this blog from:
Orangutan Outreach
Yahoo News
Toronto’ Star.com

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