An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Toronto Star: Nassir the gorilla, languid in the heat of a summer afternoon, sits just within reach of a faded sign taped to the glass of his enclosure at the Toronto Zoo, advising visitors not to share images on their cellphones with the swinging bachelor. “We’ve had a lot of members and guests that actually will put their phones up to the glass and show him videos,” says Maria Franke, the zoo’s director of wildlife conservation and welfare. “And Nassir is so into those videos. It was causing him to be distracted and not interacting with the other gorillas, and you know, being a gorilla. He was just so enthralled with gadgets and phones and the videos.”
Gorillas, it seems, share more than just 98 per cent of our DNA. Zookeepers have discovered they can become every bit as interested in cellphones as the bipedal visitors who pay to see them. […] Biologist Rob Laidlaw sees animal interest in technology as a manifestation of their need for stimulation — a result of the boredom they experience in captivity. He says keeping such animals stimulated is a huge challenge, even for sanctuary organizations that provide sprawling enclosures. “They’re looking for any opportunity they can find to engage intellectually,” said Laidlaw, a chartered biologist and executive director of Zoocheck, an animal protection organization. Laidlaw says technology has its uses in zoos, but the emphasis needs to remain on providing as many animals as possible with environments that are as close to their native habitats as possible. “My fear is always that people see these things and think they’re a panacea when in fact they’re not. They’re just one little tiny facet of relieving the boredom of animals.”
As most teenagers do, Nassir seems to have grown out of his preoccupation with cellphones, says Franke. He is strongly bonded to his half-brother, Sadiki, who shares the zoo’s rainforest habitat with him. “It’s like Nassir was a little boy, all he wanted to to do was sit in the basement and play games on the computer,” said Franke. “I’m not really sure what the content of the videos was. Was it gorillas in the wild? I have no idea. Was it a cartoon? I have no idea. But obviously, there was something that was attracting him to it.” But just in case he isn’t quite over it, the note to the public remains up — for now.