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Zoo Biol. 2012 Jan-Feb;31(1):27-39. doi: 10.1002/zoo.20378. Epub 2011 Feb 11.

Technology at the zoo: the influence of a touchscreen computer on orangutans and zoo visitors.

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Center for Conservation and Behavior, School of Psychology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30315-1440, USA.


A computer-controlled touchscreen apparatus (hereafter referred to as "touchscreen") in the orangutan exhibit at Zoo Atlanta provides enrichment to the animals and allows cognitive research to take place on exhibit. This study investigated the impact of the touchscreen on orangutan behavior and visibility, as well as its impact on zoo visitors. Despite previous research suggesting that providing a single computer system may negatively affect orangutan behavior, there was not a significant increase in aggression, stereotypic, or distress-related behaviors following the activation of the on-exhibit touchscreen. We also investigated the possibility that zoo visitors may be negatively affected by technology because it deviates from naturalism. However, we did not find a change in stay time or overall experience rating when the computer was turned on. This research was the first to assess visitor attitudes toward technology at the zoo, and we found that visitors report highly positive attitudes about technology for both animals and visitors. If subjects visited the exhibit when the computer was turned on, they more strongly agreed that orangutans benefit from interacting with computerized enrichment. This study is the first investigation of an on-exhibit touchscreen in group-housed apes; our findings of no negative effects on the animals or zoo visitors and positive attitudes toward technology suggest a significant value of this practice.


attitudes; computer; on-exhibit; orangutans; technology; touchscreen; zoo visitor

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