Six months ago, orangutans at the Milwaukee Zoo were given iPads to play around with, and the gadgets proved just as addictive for them as it does for most humans. Now, orangutans are ready to start video chatting.

The orangutans in the zoo have reportedly enjoyed playing games like Doodle Buddy and Flick Flick Football, and one of the apes has even developed a fondness for the nature documentaries of David Attenborough. The iPads were provided by a charity called Orangutan Outreach, which would like to stress that no public money was spent on something that, yes, is more than a little frivolous. Charity spokesperson Richard Zimmerman explains why they are adding video chat apps like Skype and FaceTime into the mix:

"The orangutans loved seeing videos of themselves – so there is a little vanity going on – and they like seeing videos of the orangutans who are in the other end of the enclosure. So if we incorporate cameras, they can watch each other."

The hope is that the orangutans, when presented with another of their species on the iPad screen, will recognize this other ape as a potential conversation partner and start communicating. After chimps and gorillas, orangutans are our next closest relatives, and it's an intriguing question whether they're intelligent enough to work out that video chat is a form of communication. (Of course, judging by the brief success of Chatroulette, I'm not sure all humans managed to work that one out.) Orangutan Outreach is also hoping that the sight of orangutans playing with iPads in such a human-like way will engender some public support for the conservation of the highly endangered species. You can check out the video up top for more.

Via Extreme Tech.