Steve Ross, founder of Lincoln Park Zoo's Project ChimpCARE, has had to answer some tough questions from his young children about how people treat chimps.
"My son has always been interested in animals from an early age and asks a lot of questions when he sees a chimp in the movies," Ross says. "He was sensitive to why those chimps weren't with their moms."
As Ross was having those discussions, he realized it would be a lot easier if there was a way to put the issues into a context that would be attractive and informative for children. So Ross and others at the zoo began working with a Chicago production company to figure out the best way to engage kids on this challenging subject.
The result is an interactive, free children's book for the iPad called
Ross describes the finished product as a cross between a book and a movie with actions and sounds kids can explore.
"They can discover new facts that are sort of hidden on first view. They can hear sounds when they touch certain items," Ross says.
The book is presented in a way that's not depressing or upsetting, even though it's tackling an often depressing topic.
The story highlights things chimpanzees love to do, including climbing and swinging in trees, fishing for termites, building nests and playing with other chimps. The story also carefully conveys a message about things that do not make chimps happy, such as being separated from their mothers at an early age and being isolated from their peers so they can be used for performances in movies or circuses.
The zoo decided to offer the app free of charge because that's fitting with the free zoo's philosophy of making this type of education and information available to as wide an audience as possible, Ross says.
"This is a fairly high-quality app, but we didn't want that to only be available to those willing to pay a price," he says.
Beginning Dec. 1, you can learn more at
Chimps Should Be Chimps, designed for kids 3-8. chimpsshouldbechimps.com.
Liz DeCarlo is the senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.