Digital Enrichment for Orangutans Master's Project

Full project

Digital enrichment?

Zoos use enrichment as part of their husbandry, and it is recommended by all organizations accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Enrichment is used to keep animals’ bodies and minds active. Orangutans are intelligent and need enrichment to stimulate their minds. Yet, budgets are tight, and many organizations do not have a large amount of money allocated. The digital components used in the project, are not expensive and the coding is not difficult. Often zookeepers use available resources and recycled objects - sacks, mirrors, balls, furniture. Zoo Atlanta uses some touchscreen items on exhibit and behind the scenes for cognition research. They range from iPads to a large touch screen “tree”.


Digital items are ideal because they’re easily programmed to expand on their intended use. I hope to create this with affordable technology and easy to edit code, so the enrichment can extend past the project timeline. The solution will be strongly guided by the indoor environment.The Kinect is programmed based on enclosure's characteristics, and to an extent, individual's preferences. Zoo Atlanta has two-inch mesh to separate orangutan groups and to divide the humans from the apes, which could be problematic for scenarios involving projections. It’s also worthy to note that this requires no paint clean up and could potentially create further interest in painting or digital games.


Scenario Design

In this scenario (demos 1-7) the projected image is moved to behind the yellow line. A throw projector is used because it can accommodate tight spaces. This setup will not cast any shadows as the projector no longer needs to travel through the mesh. The projected image will be on a transportable screen of muslin at 8’ x 6’. The Kinect’s camera is able to track the orangutan, while the code is programmed to “ignore” the mesh.

Training and certifications

Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)

- Non-human primate, 2015-2019

- Group 2 Social / Behavioral Research Investigators and Key Personnel, 2015-2019