Apes love apps (from our “You Can’t Make This Up” file)

Forget about the new iPhone 5! What today’s smart primate really wants is an iPad!

At 12 zoos located in the U.S. and Canada, zoologists are providing orangutans with access to iPads as part of their enrichment process. Under the program “Apps for Apes,” orangutans are given access to the computing tablets twice weekly for 15 minutes to half an hour. The animals use apps such as Doodle Buddy for drawing, as well as certain memory games and communications applications.

Because the devices are fragile, zookeepers hold the iPads while the animals navigate the touch screen. However, the program is investigating ways to ruggedize the case so that the orangutans have complete control.

According to program organizers, the iPads are not meant to replace physical stimulation, but to expand the orangutans’ access to broader intellectual experiences and aid in communications.

The Apps for Apes program is expected to expand to zoos in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Europe, and depends on donated iPads. You can learn more about the project, and how to donate your unwanted iPad, at www.redapes.org.