Myrtle Beach chimp rides virtual reality roller-coaster - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Myrtle Beach chimp rides virtual reality roller-coaster

Sugriva holding up the VR headset. (Source: T.I.G.E.R.S. Preservation Station on Facebook) Sugriva holding up the VR headset. (Source: T.I.G.E.R.S. Preservation Station on Facebook)

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Sugriva the chimp is back at it – this time riding a virtual reality roller-coaster at the Myrtle Beach Safari.

The Facebook page for the safari’s T.I.G.E.R.S. Preservation Station posted another video of Sugriva monkeying around with a virtual reality headset, with a monitor showing him flying through a virtual roller coaster in a wooden mine cart.

The local animal habitat also responded to claims that it is cruel or unenjoyable for the chimpanzees to try out the virtual reality experience.

“The chimps do what they like in this situation putting the helmet on them selves and interacting as they please,” the organization states in the caption of another Facebook video. “The game is just that a enriching game for kids to play with. The Animal rights crazies that are noT ANIMAL WELFARE [sic] oriented who are ridiculously saying the chimps are not enjoying this,they are just giving condemnation without investigation which is really the height of there [sic] ignorance.”

Since the first video of Sugriva playing in VR was posted in November, several tech sites, blogs and news sites have condemned the practice, suggesting that it borders on animal cruelty.

“Chimpanzees are different and their brains are different. It could trigger other responses we’re not aware of,” said Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist at the University of Toronto and the president of the Canadian Ape Alliance, to tech website Gizmodo. “I found it troubling. I wouldn’t say the chimpanzee looks incredibly distressed, but he does look disoriented.” 

Doc Antle, the founder of T.I.G.E.R.S. and the Myrtle Beach Safari, stated in an Instagram video caption: “He can take it off anytime. He does and can put it on anytime but needs help adjusting it to fit well. Because he has a very small nose it slides down and he holds it sometimes. He is a very strong guy and makes his own mind when he is done. He's also very kind and acclimated chimp as an animal ambassador who has meet thousands of people in his life at the preserve.”

The HTC Vive, the headset being used by Sugriva, was released in April of 2016 and features a 2160 by 1200 resolution display, head-tracking technology, and even “room-scale” features, allowing users to move about in a virtual space. It’s one of several new headsets launched this year that promises users an immersive virtual reality experience.

The Myrtle Beach Safari is home to over 130 animals, including chimpanzees, large cats, and an elephant. The organization offers tours of their 50-acre preserve in Myrtle Beach. The T.I.G.E.R.S. Preservation Station at Barefoot landing is a free wildlife exhibit and living tiger museum.

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