Going Ape Over TV

Officials at a zoo in Russia thought they had the perfect solution for helping a pair of reluctant orangutans become better parents. But they had to unplug the idea. CBS News Correspondent Richard Roth explains.

It's not just motherhood that has put the strain on romance between Monika and her mate Rabu at the St. Petersburg Zoo, though the arrival of baby Ramon two months ago hasn't made life easier for anyone. Zookeepers soon realized they'd have to intervene to care for the infant orangutan because his parents, bred in captivity, lacked any role models to teach them about child care.

Desperate to help the couple learn to do it themselves, the human handlers latched onto what they hoped was a solution.

They gave the couple a TV, in the hope that parenting videos would give Monika and Rabu something to ape. It's been a disaster.

Before TV, says the zookeeper, Rabu never took his eyes off Monika. Since the TV set went up, he's been absolutely addicted. You could call him "a couch potato orangutan." Monika, feeling neglected, gave up painting and started swallowing her crayons.

With human care and comfort, the baby's doing all right. But the family was clearly headed for trouble.

Now the Russians have tried a new strategy: cut way back on TV time. It may be working. Monika, they think, is pregnant again.

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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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