A gorilla named Amare is having his screen time cut after he became so addicted to staring at a phone screen that he didn’t notice when another gorilla charged him.
Amare, a resident at Chicago’s Lincoln Park zoo, became addicted due to zoo-goers showing him countless pictures and videos through the glass divider of his enclosure.
The problem became so bad that zoo staff have put up a rope to keep people back from the glass partition.
If they see anyone attempting to show the gorilla a selfie or funny video, they will step in to dissuade them and explain the situation.
Zoo staff said that Amare gets distracted by the bright displays on phone screens and they are trying to cut down his screen time.
“We are growing increasingly concerned that too much of his time is taken looking through people’s photos, we really prefer that he spend much more time with his troop mates learning to be a gorilla,” Stephen Ross, the director of the zoo’s Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, told the Chicago-Sun Times.
Amare was fine after the surprise attack from one of his housemates, but zoo staff are concerned.
During development, male gorillas will often get aggressive with each other and play fight to establish dominance and heirarchy. If Amare gets too distracted by people’s phones, he will miss out on that interaction and will have a lower social standing in the group.
It could lead to bullying and, as the zoo puts it, “severe developmental consequences.”
Which is why the officials have had to step in to make sure that Amare’s screen time is gently but firmly cut back.
“As parents, we think about we want to give our children choices, we want them to grow into adults, but every once in a while we have to sort of guide those choices for their good,” Ross added.
“And rather than maybe allowing them to sit inside and watch TV all day, maybe encourage them to go outside and interact with their friends. That’s something that I think all responsible parents think of and, in many ways, it’s similar to what we’re doing here.”