Bild: Zoo Basel
Bild: Zoo Basel
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Local News Summary of February 10th

  • Seriously: Monkeys in Basel Zoo will get iPads
  • Warning others about speed checks: Who is getting punished for this?

Seriously: Monkeys in Basel Zoo will get iPads

The chimpanzees, orang-utans and gorillas at Basel Zoo are set to receive iPads. Seriously. But leaving the chimps to sit around with their iPads and play all day? This is not the plan at Basel Zoo. Basel's apes don't play Candy Crush nor Quiz-Duel.

The innovation is part of a scientific project run by the University of Neuchâtel. There are real differences showing how the monkeys use the iPads. Since last autumn, scientists at the university - led by Klaus Zuberbühler - have been conducting a cognition research project to determine what humans and apes have in common and in what ways they differ. «We want to find out how far humans have developed differently from chimpanzees, for example,» said Adrian Baumeyer, curator at Basel Zoo.

See the differences between humans and apes thanks to iPads

Gorillas, orang-utans, and chimpanzees all live under the same roof in Basel. This is unique in Switzerland and also the reason why the University of Neuchâtel has been asked for a collaboration. There are two tablets already installed for the chimpanzees, and one for the orang-utans. «They love to participate,» said Adrian Baumeyer. In the next few weeks the gorillas will also get their iPads. The experiment will find out not only differences between humans and apes but also between the different kinds of apes.

A fist instead of joy

However, the chimpanzees were not happy when they got their tablet at first. «When they are given something new, they simply punch it,» explained Adrian Baumeyer. This is well known and so the tablets had to be protected with double glazing. Nevertheless the orang-utans succeeded in breaking it on the first day. «One orang-utan got into it with his fingernail and ripped it,» recalled Adrian Baumeyer. «They are completely different creatures. Chimpanzees are quickly upset, have no patience and start to punch things. Orang-utans however are considerate and have a lot of patience.»

After the apes realised that the tablet wasn't anything bad, they got used to it. «The animals of the lower ranks were given the opportunity first to approach the tablet,» said Adrian Baumeyer. The first task was simple: They had to touch a green screen and if they managed to do that, they received a treat. «Suddenly, there is only a little green square which had to be pressed, then a picture they had to keep in mind,» explained the curator. In reality, it's like a game in which the tasks become more and more complex. «For apes, it is more difficult, so it remains attractive,» said Adrian Baumeyer. However, the project doesn't aim to improve the apes' thinking but it rather seeks to find out whether they can solve a task at all.

As long as there are treats…

It's like at school: Some apes make quicker progress, others need more time to understand the basics. «Mothers with babies didn't approach the tablet yet,» said the curator. The reason is that they don't know it and have enough to do with the children. Some chimpanzees like to face the tasks, others haven't approached the tablet at all. «The higher-ranked animals complete all the tasks one after the other and then eat all the treats in one go,» Mr Baumeyer said. «Lower-ranked apes, however, eat the treats immediately after every task.» Otherwise another ape could eat it all. There is no danger that the apes - like many humans – are going to be busy with the screen too often and for too long. «They are only interested in the treats,» said the curator. And these are only small goodies, but who knows – maybe it will be a smartphone one day? Whatever the treat is: this story is good enough for Fasnacht.

Warning others about speed checks: Who is getting punished for this?

It is punishable for drivers to warn each other on social media about speed checks. It has been seen many times in recent years that people were punished by the police for warning others about speed checks. But is giving a simple warning really illegal? explains.

A quick drive home from the office. The right foot might be a bit too heavy on the gas pedal. Then a message comes on the radio: «Warning: speed camera ahead». Pull the brakes and another fine could be avoided. Up until 2008, private radio stations reported about speed checks as regularly as the weather or sports news. But then the Federal Office of Communications intervened. Since then, radio stations are not permitted to transmit such hints. Ever since the start of 2013, public reports by individuals are also forbidden. On 1st January 2013, the first part of «Via sicura», a federal programme for more safety on the roads, came into force. Within the framework of «Via sicura», those «who warn the public about traffic checks carried out by authorities» are punished (Art. 98a Abs. 3 lit. a SVG).

Drivers find new possibilities

The ban prompted drivers to switch to plan B: social media platforms, messenger services, and apps are an excellent medium to disseminate warnings about traffic checks. Many Facebook pages and apps were soon set up. They had remarkable reach and drivers could warn others about radar boxes. The problem is - and therefore we got in touch with the law - that article 98a SVG punishes (almost) all kinds of «warnings from traffic control»: «Those who warn the public about road checks carried out by the authorities are fined, […] in hard cases the punishment can be a financial penalty in up to 180 daily rates.» The daily rates are set depending on the offender's income.

However, there are still offers on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and special radar warning apps which warn about radar controls, even though it is still illegal.

What is «public»?

Is a discussion in a Facebook group public, however? What is «public» when it comes to social networks? This question is vividly discussed, especially when it comes to networks having closed and protected profiles such as the messenger service WhatsApp.

Toprak Yerguz, media spokesperson for the Department for Justice and Security of Basel-Stadt, told that «according to current practice, WhatsApp and Facebook groups with a minimum of 50 members and above are seen as public and are therefore included in the ban». This also means that people should not warn others through their own private Facebook account since most people have more than 50 friends. 

A special team which is on the hunt for warning offenders on the Internet does not exist at the cantonal police Basel-Stadt. «If the cantonal police Basel-Stadt is informed that someone warns others about speed checks, these people get reported,» said Mr Yerguz.

Not only digital warnings are banned

Warning others by flashing your lights is also forbidden, according to a decision by the federal court. An offender can be fined 40 Swiss francs. Furthermore, making obvious signs is punishable. The federal court decided that it is illegal to show a piece of cardboard with «radar» written on it. This happened in Riehen in 2013 when a student warned drivers with a cardboard from a speed check at Kohlisteig; for this he was fined with several hundred francs.

Those who want to be completely sure give their warnings on social media – beyond direct communication with other people – and do not declare them as «radar traps» or other traffic checks. Those who are more daring can warn less than 50 people – from the point of view of the cantonal police Basel-Stadt – and hope that the prosecution authorities do not change this definition. The safest way, however, is to keep to the speed limits.