The Toronto Zoo is asking visitors not to show their phones to the gorillas. Turns out, too much screen time is bad for them, too.
Zoo-goers have apparently piqued the interest of not just Toronto Zoo’s gorillas, but also those in other areas. The gorillas are so enthralled seeing images and videos on smartphones that they apparently neglect to socialize with the other gorillas, which is especially problematic when animal experts are hoping they mate, the Toronto Star reports.
“For the wellbeing of gorilla troop, please refrain from showing them any videos or photos as some content can be upsetting and affect their relationships and behaviour within their family,” a sign next to the Toronto Zoo’s gorilla enclosure reads.
One bachelor gorilla, Nassir, was enjoying the images visitors would show him a little too much, it seems.
“Nassir is so into those videos,” Toronto Zoo’s director of wildlife conservation and welfare Maria Franke told the Star. “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.”
Nassir’s bio on the zoo’s website confirms as much, reading, “Nassir is truly the epitome of a teenager, fascinated by videos and screen time would dominate his life if he had his way.”
But as Indianapolis Zoo research scientist Chris Martin told the Canadian newspaper, the interest doesn’t have to be seen as negative or an addiction.
“I think even if an ape is interested in the cellphone, I wouldn’t say that necessarily constitutes any kind of addiction. I think they’re probably just curious. They’re inquisitive and smart,” Martin told the Star.
If you’re worried Nassir and the other gorillas will be starved for the dopamine rush of TikToks and Reels, don’t be. Franke tells the Toronto Star that the zoo offers plenty of healthy enrichment with screens. This allows them to recreate challenges to get food, as would be normal in the wild, and to engage with the animals. It’s not just gorillas, either. Franke mentioned uses with polar bears, orangutans, and even hyenas.
Still, unsupervised screen time has affected gorillas in addition to Nassir. Amare at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo reportedly began experiencing behavioral issues, according to People Magazine. For their sake, it might be best to keep the screens in pockets when at the zoo.
Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.