Martin, C. F., Muramatsu, A., Matsuzawa, T. 2022. Apex and ApeTouch: Development of a portable touchscreen system and software for primates at zoos. Animals 12(13), 1660.
We report on the development and testing of a portable touchscreen apparatus and accompanying software program for primate enrichment, cognitive research, and husbandry applications. For zoos considering using technology to bolster scientific efforts or enhance the welfare of primates in their care, touchscreen activities offer a solution that has a long and proven record of primate use in laboratory settings as well as a history of usage in the zoo world. We review the options that are available for zoos to build their own touchscreen systems and we offer as an alternative our pre-built apparatus, Apex, and primate software suite, ApeTouch, both of which are tailored for use in a zoo setting. The efficacy and utility of these tools are demonstrated in a training study with four macaque groups of different species that were previously naïve to touchscreens. All of the groups in the study learned to use the device and displayed a consistent engagement with the touchscreen tasks over 95 daily sessions of exposure. In the final stage of the training, two of the four groups displayed an above-chance level performance on a numerical sequencing task.