COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Bonobos are receiving enrichment through computer games at Columbus Zoo to keep them mentally active.
They are playful, curious, affectionate — and Curator Audra Meinelt of the Congo Expedition Region says the bonobos are super intelligent.
“The computer gives them the chance to have that extra mental activity that they really, really thrive on,” said Meinelt. “Cause they are always smarter than we are when we are working with them. I think you can just see the intelligence in the animals. They understand how to figure things out. They actively try to problem solve through any challenges we give them through their day.”
The challenge they like best? Computer games. They start with the most basic program — push the dot — get a treat. Then two dots.
Bertie loves the dog game. But she still struggles with the concept of tic-tac-toe that Amelia is mastering. Amelia knows she has to keep playing until she gets three in a row.
“They do seem to understand that when they hit them enough that something happens,” says Meinelt.
And, just like your kids, there’s a bit of a scuffle when Bertie tries to steal the treat that Amelia earned.
“They fight over treats,” said Meinelt.
Some of the adult bonobos, who were focused on lunch when our sister station NBC4 was there, are already able to put colored dots in a specific sequence to earn a treat.
“Animals in their native habitat have to work very hard every day for their food and their natural resources. So we try to emulate that here at all times at the zoo because it’s important for them to stay physically active and mentally active,” said Meinelt.
They are thriving here, and the Columbus Zoo is an important part of conservation and protection for this endangered species that is native only to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“They are the least-known species of great apes. They haven’t had that champion that chimpanzees have had with Jane Goodal, or gorillas with Diane Fosse,” explained Meinelt.
But they have champions here who are looking for new and better ways to keep these smart apes stimulated and happy.
“We do have the ability to load things in so we could allow them to, say, choose the enrichment device they want to play with for the day, or what food items they even want to have right now. So we would like to be able to use it provide more choice and control so they have an active decision-making process in their day to day,” Meinelt explained.