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National Zoo’s ‘Apps for Apes’ Program Provides Enrichment

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Smithsonian's National Zoo began participating in the Apps for Apes program last year, when a keeper’s family member donated an iPad to the Great Ape House. (Credit: Jen Zoon, Smithsonian's National Zoo)

Smithsonian’s National Zoo began participating in the Apps for Apes program last year, when a keeper’s family member donated an iPad to the Great Ape House. (Credit: Jen Zoon, Smithsonian’s National Zoo)

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LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC)- Angry Birds make for happy apes.

OK, maybe not Angry Birds. But orangutans at the National Zoo are enjoying an assortment of iPad apps as part of an enrichment program called Apps for Apes.

Six orangutans who call the Smithsonian’s Great Ape House home range in age from 16 to 39. They take turns using one iPad, which was donated last year by an employee’s family member.

When the National Zoo first got on board with the program, animal keeper Erin Stromberg contacted the participants at 12 other zoos around the world to determine which apps were the most popular among apes. The Ape House iPad now contains instrument apps, an animated koi pond, cognitive games and drawing programs. All the orangutans seem to have a favorite.

Eventually, the Smithsonian animal keepers hope to connect its orangutans with those at other zoos using video conferencing platforms.

But, for now, the apes are happy with what they’ve got.

“We’re walking down the aisle way with the iPad and they all come up and they all have their hands out, ready to go,” Stromberg said.

Those who wish to donate to the Apps for Apes program can visit the National Zoo website.

WNEW’s Kimberly Suiters contributed to this report. Follow her on Twitter.

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(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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