Researchers Give Video Games To Primates

ATLANTA -- Zoo Atlanta is using 21st century techniques to study the way orangutans think and learn.

Tara Stoinski, who heads the zoo's Conservation Partnership, said a great deal of research exists on a close relative, the chimpanzee. But data on orangutans is relatively sparse.

One avenue of research involves computer games. In one program, a picture of an orangutan appears on the screen. Every time the real primate touches the photo, the visual disappears and the animal receives a treat. Stoinski said that teaching orangutans to use computers helps scientists retrieve data that's objective.

The computer screen is built into a tree-like structure to blend in with the environment.

Visitors get to watch the antics, and zoo officials hope that opening up the research will raise awareness of the world's rapidly diminishing orangutan population.