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Real life Donkey Kong? Zoo lets apes play video games

At the zoo in Melbourne, Australia, orangutans are going ape over video games.

The first program of its kind lets the animals play a number of specially designed, interactive video games. One game involves moving 3D beams of color and light; another projects a series of photos for them to react to. The technology is relatively simple, involving a projector, part of an Xbox and a laptop -- less than $1,000 worth of electronic equipment in all, Australia's News 10 reports.

The apes seem to think it's fun, and zookeepers say the games also serve an important purpose: keeping the animals challenged and engaged so they don't feel bored or unhappy, or worse, try to escape.

"We're trying to find ways to give all the animals more choice because that means more positive welfare," zookeeper Rachel Lowry told News 10 reporter Trent Dann.

Once the orangutans get the hang of it, they may get a chance to test their skills by playing games with zoo visitors. "They love interacting with our visitors, they choose to come up and interact with our visitors, so we want to test, do they actually want to share this with the visitors?" Lowry said.

Ultimately, learning how to control the video games could help the apes master other technology to improve their lives in captivity.

"We would love to think the orangutans could one day have more choice over their environment," Lowry said. "They might be able to choose the temperature, how much shade, and whether the blinds go up or down ... Who knows where this could go?"

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