October 04, 2015 04:55 UTC

Science & Technology

Orangutans With iPads

We follow up with the nonprofit organization Orangutan Outreach to answer questions in your comments | TECHNOLOGY REPORT

Orangutan OutreachOrangutan Outreach
Orangutan Outreach
Orangutan Outreach


Play or download an MP3 of this story
From VOA Learning English, this is the Technology Report in Special English.
Recently we reported on a program called Apps for Apes. It was started by the New York-based nonprofit organization Orangutan Outreach. The program which introduces Apple’s iPad to orangutans in zoos sparked an interest among our listeners. We decided to answer some of the questions they sent in.
But first, we had our own question: how to pronounce the name of the ape. Many people wrongly say "orangutang," with a G at the end. Maybe, because orangutans are orange, people relate the name to the color. But there is no connection. Orangutan Outreach’s Richard Zimmerman explains where the name came from.
“People in Malaysia and Indonesia would say orang hu tan and it's -- actually, it doesn’t mean orange. Orang is the Malay or Indonesian word for man or human, and utan comes from hutan with an H, which means forest. So essentially, orangutan means person of the forest.”
One of our listeners asked how orangutans would react to seeing another orangutan using the iPad when they themselves are not using it. Mr. Zimmerman explains that the orangutans all want to use the tablet when they see it. This desire could come from wanting the same attention that the caretaker gives the ape using the device.
Mr. Zimmerman told us what happens in a situation where the mother of a baby orangutan uses the iPad with an animal caretaker. The baby orangutan will see the iPad and will jump over wanting to become involved. In this case, he advises having two iPads and two caretakers to work with the mother and the baby.
Another example comes from an animal sanctuary in Florida.
“At the Center for Great Apes in Florida, when we do the enrichment sessions with Mari, a female orangutan, Pongo, with whom she lives, who is a big male, he gets jealous and wants the attention. So he comes running over and wants to use the iPad.” 
Another listener asked us if orangutans react to seeing iPads being used by visitors to a zoo. Mr. Zimmerman says this behavior has not necessarily been documented. But he says orangutans are used to having their pictures taken with other devices.
“The orangutans are used to people taking photos of them, so either pointing at them with a camera or a phone, so more of the smaller devices, rather than an iPad.” 
Mr. Zimmerman adds that the orangutans do recognize the iPad, but to know what they are thinking is a bit more difficult.
Any mind readers out there who can tell us what a great ape is thinking? Or has someone developed an app for that, too?
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Jean
04/03/2013 2:08 AM
Very interesting topic.

by: Bach Yen from: Saigon
04/03/2013 1:35 AM
I like this story because I'm one of many people used to think that orangutan means apes with yellow hair. Thank you so much.

by: Anonymous
04/02/2013 5:07 AM
can not listen the audio in China.

by: bambi from: HK
04/01/2013 11:10 PM
Orangutans are cute:) I didn't know the meaning and where did the name come from. Thank you. I guess the case they are interested into Ipad is just similar with the monkey grab our foods in HK.

Learn with The News

  • Audio Kenyan Church Welcomes LGBT Members

    In early September, the Anglican Church of Kenya cancelled the license of clergymen suspected of homosexuality. Some feared that Kenyan churches do not welcome homosexuals. But one location offers religious services to gays, homosexuals, bisexual and transgender people. More

  • Video Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

    California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. More

  • Video Father of Oregon Victim Says Gunman Targeted Christians

    U.S. officials are investigating an attack Thursday at a college in rural southern Oregon. Officials identified the gunman as 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer. They said he killed at least nine people at Umpqua Community College. More

  • Audio Cecil the Lion Could Help Protect Other Animals

    The head of the animal rights group Born Free USA says the killing of Cecil the lion put a face on issues conservation groups have been addressing for years. Current campaigns aim to stop trophy hunting and cruelty to elephants in Africa. More

  • Audio China Restricts Reporting on Guangxi Bombings

    The attacks killed at least seven people and injured 50 others. Critics say it is common for a Chinese official to try to limit the spread of bad news, especially when it happens at a sensitive time. The government also moved to restrict search keywords related to the bombings or the suspect. More

Featured Stories

  • Audio Everyday Grammar: Comparatives and Superlatives

    When we want to compare things we use comparative and superlative forms. Find out some of rules and exceptions of these important forms in Everyday Grammar for this week. More

  • Video ‘The Martian’ Mixes Science, Science Fiction

    Hollywood's latest space operation gone wrong movie stars Matt Damon as an astronaut mistakenly left on Mars. The film is a hit with movie critics. But what do science critics think? More

  • The Open Boat by Stephen Crane, Part 2

    Video The Open Boat by Stephen Crane, Part Two

    We continue the story of “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane. As we told you last week, the story is based on true events. In eighteen ninety-six, Crane was traveling to Cuba as a news reporter. On his way there, his ship sank in the Atlantic Ocean. Crane climbed into the last remaining lifeboat. More

  • Audio Great Barrier Reef Choking on Pollutants

    The Great Barrier Reef is off the coast of Queensland in northeastern Australia. It is the largest living organism on Earth. However, the reef is being damaged by climate change and pollutants from farms that flow into the reef. More

  • Caffeine could help your memory.

    Audio Coffee Before Bed Does More Than Keep You Awake

    Sleep is important for our mental and physical health. But, an internationally popular drug may interfere with that. Caffeine is found in coffee and other foods and drink. Researchers now say to be careful about when you drink it! More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner
Confessions of an English Learner blog

Tell us About Our Programs