Monkeying around: How orangutans in zoos can stay in touch

Friday, May 18 2012

Orangutans that have lost contact with their family members because they were relocated to different zoos might have a modern way of catching up - video conferencing. Workers at Miami's Jungle Island have been experimenting with using the technology to allow the primates to stay in touch with relatives, according to The Associated Press.

While this may seem fanciful, experts believe that it would be a useful tool in reducing stress among the animals and encouraging healthy bonds.

"Anything that Jungle Island can do to help their orangutans while away the day is to be commended," scientist and conservationist Birute Mary Galdikas told the news source.

The potential for online conferencing in this capacity is being excitedly explored by biologists and zoo keepers. By providing the animals with ways of communicating without the ability to speak - such as recognition of objects and expressing their wants and needs - the new technology could be a powerful tool to help humans understand their high intelligence.

"It would just be such a wonderful bridge to have," Linda Jacobs, who oversees the program, told The AP. 

A potentially easier way for students to interact with animals, video conferencing could also be another form of the increasingly popular trend of replacing or augmenting field trips for students.